As it happened: Ukraine naval base stormed in Crimea

Key Points

  • Ukraine announces it is drawing up a plan to withdraw soldiers and their families from Crimea
  • Ukraine says it is leaving the Moscow-led Commonwealth of Independent States and is preparing military exercises with the US and UK
  • Pro-Russian forces storm two Ukrainian naval bases in Crimea
  • Ukraine says "hostages" taken at bases and issues ultimatum for their release
  • The latest developments come after Russia and Crimea signed a treaty on Tuesday absorbing the territory into the Russian Federation
  • Crimeans voted in favour of splitting from Ukraine in a referendum on Sunday dismissed by the West as illegal. All times GMT

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    Welcome to our live page on developments in Crimea, where the Ukrainian military is apparently being ousted by pro-Russian forces.


    Various sources say the commander of the Ukrainian navy, Admiral Serhiy Haiduk, has been forced to leave the Ukrainian naval headquarters in Crimea, in Sevastopol, and has been taken away, apparently by Russian intelligence officers.


    Earlier pro-Russian forces stormed the base, replacing the Ukrainian flag with a Russian one. A number of Ukrainian servicemen were seen leaving the base, unarmed and in civilian clothing.


    The takeover appears to have been carried out without bloodshed. Oleksander Balanyuk, a captain in the Ukrainian navy, told Reuters: "This morning they stormed the compound. They cut the gates open, but I heard no shooting."


    Men - presumed to be Ukrainian naval officers and sailors - were seen leaving the Sevastopol base with uniforms and belongings, passing pro-Russian forces at the gate.

    Man presumed to be a Ukrainian naval officer leaves Sevastopol base in Crimea

    Meanwhile, the Ukrainian defence minister was due to fly to Crimea to "resolve the situation", but Crimea's pro-Russian Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov said: "They will not be allowed to enter in Crimea. They will be sent back."


    Sevastopol-based website has published photographs apparently showing Russian Black Sea Fleet commander Aleksandr Vitko inside the Ukrainian navy base in Sevastopol. See the photos here.

    European Commission

    tweets: #EU/#Ukraine @EU_Commission proposes a further €1bn in macro-financial assistance!cD36wM cc @ECspokesSimon #euromaidan


    emails: Wasn't the uprising against the last Ukrainian leader also illegal? Yet we did nothing. If Crimea wants to go, let them go. Have a swap of citizens, "all those who wants to be Russian go to Crimea, all those who wants to stay Ukrainian leave Crimea"... But the constraint by all those in Crimea is admirable. Let's quickly resolve it and move on.


    The BBC's World Affairs editor John Simpson has described the annexation of Crimea as the smoothest invasion of modern times. You can read his analysis of events here.


    A Ukrainian ministry of defence spokesman tells the Kyiv Post that the military in Crimea is under pressure from pro-Russian forces to change sides and swear an oath to Crimea. He says five ships were forced to set sail when their crew refused. The wife of the colonel in charge of Belbek airbase told the Post that pilots were blockaded inside by Russian troops.

    Chris, East Yorks

    texts: Crimea consequences. Surely if the West hadn't meddled prior to Kiev events then the Crimean situation wouldn't have happened. As ye sow etc.

    Roland Oliphant

    tweets: Seems clear it'll be over soon. Ukrainian forces packing up their personal effects going home. Reports Perevalnoye is surrendering too.


    Ukraine's First Deputy Prime Minister, Vitaly Yarema, and Defence Minister Ihor Tenyukh have been prevented from entering Crimea, Interfax-Ukraine news agency quotes Social Policy Minister Lyudmyla Denysova as saying. Via BBC Monitoring

    12:36: Oleg Boldyrev BBC Russian

    says: At Novoozernaya naval base in Yevpatoria, Crimea, a worker welds the gates back on, after they were crushed by people who took over the base this morning. Russian flags are at the gate. Ukrainian soldiers are mixing with Russians and locals. Ukrainian commanders are now discussing options with the Russian ones. A Ukrainian soldier at the gate said no-one was hurt, and commanders are "looking at options to save face". He says the same is happening at many bases around Crimea.


    Ukraine's National Security and Defence Council are sitting to discuss the latest security developments in Crimea.


    Pro-Russian supporters walk through the naval headquarters in Sevastopol after they stormed the base.

    Pro-Russian supporters walk through the naval headquarters in Sevastopol, on 19 March 2014
    Mark Urban Diplomatic and defence editor, Newsnight

    tweets: The Russian troops who took #Ukraine navy HQ came in trucks with RU military plates with location code '90'. Can someone advise where that is?


    Video has emerged of what appears to the head of Ukraine's state TV company being beaten up in his offices by MPs from the far-right Svoboda party. After roughing up Aleksandr Panteleymonov, the men force him to sign his resignation. Euronews says one of those involved in the assault is the deputy head of Ukraine's committee on freedom of speech.


    Svoboda were a key part of the protests against President Yanukovych and have since taken several positions in government, to the alarm of some Ukrainians. Read more about the role of the far right in the uprising here.


    Ukraine is to boycott fencing tournaments in Russia to protest against the death of a Ukrainian serviceman in Crimea on Tuesday, Reuters says, quoting an official statement from the Ukraine fencing federation.


    Troops who say they are from Russia's Main Intelligence Directorate are blocking the Ukrainian naval missile division in Sevastopol, BBC Monitoring says Interfax-Ukraine news agency is reporting.

    Daniel Baer, US Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe

    tweets: For 3rd straight time in a week, 56 agree to @OSCE monitors for Ukraine, and Russia objects. And can't even explain why. #Russiaisolated


    Dunja Mijatovic, media freedom representative at the OSCE, said she was "appalled" by the "outrageous" attack on Ukraine's state TV chief (see 12:49 post). It "goes against all media freedom values and cannot be tolerated," she said in a statement.


    "This is a particularly serious incident as some attackers not only represent the legislative branch of power, but also are members of the freedom of speech and information committee of the Parliament," said Dunja Mijatovic.


    US Vice President Joe Biden has said the US will defend any Nato members against aggression and warned that Russia was on a "dark path" to isolation over its actions in Ukraine. Mr Biden was speaking in Lithuania amid fears in the Baltic states that Russia might not stop at annexing Crimea.

    Mark Urban Diplomatic and defence editor, Newsnight

    tweets: In Sevastopol I saw #Ukraine naval officers leaving sheepishly after Russians took their base today - humiliated

    Photo from Mark Urban of Ukrainian naval officers leaving their base in Sevastopol

    Ukraine is resigning the rotating chairmanship of the Commonwealth of Independent States, a Moscow-led regional alliance which comprises most of the former Soviet republics, and is considering leaving it altogether, says Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Yevhen Perebyynis. (Interfax-Ukraine via BBC Monitoring)


    Russia may restrict foreign companies' involvement in oil and gas exploration off the coast of Crimea, Russian Deputy Minister for Natural Resources and Environment, Denis Khramov, has told Russian state news agency RIA Novosti. Under Russian law, only majority state-owned companies can be involved in exploring reserves classed as being of "federal importance", the agency says. (BBC Monitoring)


    Russia's Defence Ministry says a planned inspection of Russian military facilities by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in the coming days will be its last in Russia this year, the privately-owned Russian military news agency Interfax-AVN has reported. Defence Ministry official Sergei Ryzhkov is quoted as saying that the quota for inspections by the OSCE under a 2011 agreement had been "exhausted".

    Roland Oliphant, Telegraph

    tweets: Ukrainian navy officers and ratings leave fleet HQ, evicted by Russians. "We fulfilled our duty to the end"

    Mark Urban diplomatic and defence editor, Newsnight

    tweets: Thanks to those who helped establish that 90 on plates of RU trucks at Ukraine navy HQ = belong to Black Sea Fleet

    Image of military truck in Crimea

    UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will be visiting Moscow on Thursday for talks with President Vladimir Putin, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and other senior officials, his spokesperson says. He will then travel on to Kiev on Friday to meet Ukraine's acting President Oleksandr Turchynov and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk "as part of his diplomatic efforts to encourage all parties to resolve the current crisis peacefully".

    Two women, believed to be Ukrainian servicewomen, carry their uniforms as they walk past an armed man, believed to be a Russian serviceman, while leaving a military base in Perevalnoye near the Crimean city of Simferopol, on 19 March 2014.

    Two women, believed to be Ukrainian servicewomen, carry their uniforms as they walk past an armed man, believed to be a Russian serviceman, while leaving a military base in Perevalnoye near the Crimea's Simferopol


    The BBC's Mark Lowen says around 100 Ukrainian servicemen are still barricaded inside the naval base in Sevastopol.

    Gerald, Cranbrook, Canada

    emails: Short of going to war with Russia, there is nothing, repeat nothing, that democratic nations in the world can do to get Russia to give up on the takeover of the Crimea.


    The BBC team have been tweeting pictures from outside the naval headquarters in Sevastopol. Here, a Ukrainian naval officer is seen leaving the premises with his uniform.

    Naval officer leaves Sevastopol naval headquarters with uniform on 19 March 2014

    Bulgaria's president, Rosen Plevneliev, tells the BBC he shares the concerns of his eastern European colleagues that Russia might be tempted to annex parts of other countries.

    "What about Lithuania? What about Estonia? We do have Russian communities and minorities there. Is it possible in [the] 21st Century that they can call Moscow and Moscow will send troops and occupy and annex some part of their territory. Is that possible?"


    The BBC's Simon Marr tweets this picture of what he says are Russian troops offloading bedding and food at Sevastopol naval headquarters.

    Russian troops off load bedding and food at Sevastopol naval headquarters on 19 March 2014
    14:08: BBC Monitoring

    reports: The government of Ukraine has approved an action plan to evacuate Ukrainian citizens from Crimea and resettle them in other parts of the country, senior minister Ostap Semerak is quoted as saying by Interfax-Ukraine.


    Meanwhile Russia has heavily criticised the UK government's decision to partially suspend military cooperation with Moscow.

    "The unilateral curtailment of military cooperation nullifies everything positive that had been achieve with such difficulty in recent years," deputy defence minister Anatoly Antonov said.


    Ukraine's former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has been released from a hospital in Berlin, where she was being treated for three slipped discs, Associated Press reports.

    File photo of Yulia Tymoshenko

    Here Ms Tymoshenko is seen giving a speech in Kiev's Independence Square shortly after being released from prison following the ousting of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych last month. Though she holds no post in government, she is still believed to wield considerable influence behind the scenes.

    Olexiy Solohubenko, BBC Ukraine analyst

    tweets: Putin orders transport ministry to build a rail and car bridge from Kerch to #Crimea. A tunnel is also considered.


    Ukrainian navy men on board ships blocked inside Donuzlav Bay, western Crimea, are on full alert and ready to defend themselves against possible attacks by Russian troops, Interfax-Ukraine news agency reports.

    "We're throwing grenades from time to time so that they can't approach us. We have also put up armed guards," said one of the navy commanders.


    Earlier this month, Russia's Black Sea Fleet reportedly scuttled several of its ships at the entrance to the bay to block the seven Ukrainian vessels based there from leaving.

    A Russian soldier patrols on a chimney with Russian flags at the Ukrainian navy headquarters in the Crimean city of Sevastopol on 19 March 2014.

    A Russian soldier patrols on a chimney with Russian flags at Sevastopol navy HQ.

    Digby, Poznan, Poland

    They won the vote, but why on earth do they have to throw the Ukraine Army out like they had done something wrong? When it was Ukraine, the Russians had their navy posted there. They should try to do this in a civilized manner!

    14:20: BBC Monitoring

    reports: The authorities in Ukraine have carried out an inspection of air raid shelters in the Kharkiv region, which borders Russia, and deemed almost half of them unusable, official Vasyl Khoma told Interfax-Ukraine.


    "Certain efforts" are under way to repair the shelters, Mr Khoma has said, adding that nuclear shelters are being checked, too, and the regional public emergency alert system will be tested later today.


    Any discussion of further sanctions against Russia between European leaders at a summit later this week will be limited to a second phase of measures, a senior German official has told Reuters. On Monday, the EU announced travel bans and asset freezes against 21 Russian and Ukrainian officials over Russia's actions in Crimea.


    The condition for a third phase, the unnamed official continues, would be a "massive destabilisation" of other parts of Ukraine beyond Crimea.

    Elena, London

    emails: I am an ethnic Ukrainian, I grew up in the South of Russia and I have lived in the UK for the last 12 years. I have relatives living both in Ukraine and Russia. The level of anti-Russian propaganda in the British Media (including BBC) is unbelievable. I want you to realise that this information war is not only damaging to Russia but to Ukrainian and even some UK citizens. My Ukrainian relatives and friends are telling me of horrors they face on the daily basis: looting, thuggery, robbery, violence. There's no police to control it, during Maidan events, the Ukrainian police was first beaten and then humiliated, they are too scared to even show up on the streets.

    People, believed to be Ukrainian servicemen, carry their belongings as they walk past armed men, believed to be Russian servicemen, on their way out of the naval headquarters in Sevastopol on 19 March 2014.

    More people, believed to be Ukrainian servicemen, leave Sevastopol navy base. So far there have been no reports of bloodshed during the takeover by pro-Russian troops on Wednesday.

    Roland Oliphant Moscow correspondent, Daily Telegraph

    tweets: Many are local recruits, wondering where to go, what to do. None I spoke to wanted to join the Russian army.

    14:31: BBC Monitoring

    reports: Prosecutors in Sevastopol deny detaining Ukrainian navy chief Serhiy Hayduk "in connection with any criminal cases," in a statement quoted by Ukrayinska Pravda website. This contradicts an earlier report by local news agency Krym Inform, which said prosecutors had arrested Mr Hayduk after Russian troops stormed the navy HQ in Sevastopol. The Ukrainian Defence Ministry said his whereabouts were unknown.


    The BBC's diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus says Russia's annexation of Crimea is just a taste of things to come, in his analysis of the broader geopolitical implications of the Ukrainian crisis.


    Russian forces have seized a second Ukrainian navy base - this time in western Crimea's Novoozerne naval base - AFP reporters on the ground say.


    The AFP reporters say they saw some 50 Ukrainian servicemen filing out of the compound as Russian soldiers stood by, while pro-Moscow forces raised the Russian flag over the base.

    Crowds outside bank in Simferopol

    Crowds have been forming outside banks in recent days, amid confusion over the introduction of the Russian ruble.

    David, Liverpool, UK

    emails: Effective 1 May everyone in Crimea will become Russian citizens, including Ukrainians and Tartars. Russia allows dual citizenship but Ukraine doesn't. I have family living in Crimea who are Ukrainian. If they want to remain Ukrainian they have to move out of Crimea. The exodus has already begun and I will be going over to help my family move. In another world this would be called ethnic cleansing. All of this goes on whilst the rest of Europe watches and does relatively little. There is no doubt in the minds of most down there that the "land grabs" will continue in the east.

    File photo of Ukrainian navy chief Serhiy Hayduk taken on 3 March 2014

    The whereabouts of Ukraine's navy chief, Serhiy Hayduk, remain unclear after the naval headquarters were stormed earlier today.


    On Monday, the BBC's Patrick Jackson couldn't use his Russian rubles yet to pay for a coffee in the Crimean resort town of Yalta. But the residents there told our reporter they were well aware of the changes about to befall them.

    Map of Crimea

    The second naval base which has reportedly been seized by pro-Russian troops (see 14:37) is located to the west of the Crimean peninsula, in the municipality of Yevpatoria.


    President Putin said in a speech on Tuesday that Moscow had backed Germany's reunification, and that he now expected Germans to also support Russian aspirations to "restore unity".


    German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman called Putin's comment "an astonishing comparison" and one of several "skewed historical parallels" that had been made during the Ukraine standoff.

    "German unification brought together two separate states of the one nation. By contrast, the Russian intervention has led to the division of Ukraine," Steffen Seibert told a press conference in Berlin.

    Ukrainian border guards look through binoculars at a checkpoint outside the village of Chongar, in the Kherson region adjacent to Crimea, on 19 March 2014.

    Ukrainian border guards remain in a high state of alert in the village of Chongar, in the Kherson region adjacent to Crimea.


    On Saturday, the Kherson border region made headlines when Russian troops armed with heavy artillery seized the village of Strilkove, in the first Russian military move into Ukraine beyond Crimea. The forces later withdrew from the village, but reportedly kept control of its gas plant.

    Steve Rosenberg BBC News, Donetsk

    tweets: This way, please. Entrance to the Governor's building, #Donetsk.

    Riot police guard governor's building in Donetsk
    15:15: BBC Monitoring

    reports: Armed men who say they belong to Russia's main intelligence department are guarding the entrance to the Ukrainian navy's coastal missile unit in Sevastopol, Interfax-Ukraine quotes a deputy commander as saying.

    Anders Fogh Rasmussen

    Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen is calling Russia's incursion in Crimea the greatest threat to European security and stability since the end of the Cold War. He will make the comments in a speech later on Wednesday, according to the Associated Press, which has received an advanced copy of his talk.


    More from the BBC's Steve Rosenberg, who has tweeted the following photos showing the heavy security presence outside the regional governor's headquarters in the eastern city of Donetsk.

    Guards outside the regional governor's HQ in Donetsk on 19 March 2014
    Guards outside the regional governor's HQ in Donetsk on 19 March 2014

    The annexation of Crimea was the smoothest invasion of modern times, says the BBC's world affairs editor John Simpson. Here, he explains how the move was over before the world realised it had even started.

    15:35: BBC Monitoring

    reports: Activists of the nationalist Right Sector group in eastern Ukraine have no intention of laying down their arms and plan to use them for self-defence and for the defence of Ukrainians, the head of the movement's armed wing, Andriy Biletskyy, has told the UNIAN news agency.


    International energy giant Royal Dutch Shell has told Reuters it broke off talks over participation in the development of the offshore Skifska gas field in the Ukrainian Black Sea in January. A spokeswoman for Shell said the company had expected the deal to be signed in 2012 or 2013, but that didn't happen.

    Sergiy, Kiev, Ukraine

    emails: I'm working near Maidan. I can assure you that no-one is forbidden to speak in Russian and there is no looting, thuggery, robbery or violence. Even in Lviv or other "anti-Russian" cities people can think and speak freely, not like in Crimea where many people believe Russian TV and not what they see on the streets.


    Ukrainian presidential hopeful Vitali Klitschko says Ukrainian troops should be withdrawn from Crimea, now that it is "a temporarily occupied territory".


    "We must not wait and risk people's lives leaving them in danger. A decision must be taken immediately to pull the Ukrainian troops out of Crimea into their new temporary locations, as well as to provide support and create infrastructure for the citizens who will be forced to temporarily leave Crimea," says the boxer-turned-politician, seen here shaking hands with Ukrainian soldiers on 15 March, before the referendum.

    Vitali Klitschko (15 March 2014)

    More from Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who has accused Russia of "ripping up the international rule book" in a speech at Georgetown University in Washington DC.

    He said events in Ukraine had underlined the fact that global peace and security could not be taken for granted, and warned that such actions had "no place in the 21st century".

    Patrick Jackson BBC News, Simferopol

    tweets: Simferopol international airport was not mad busy today. #Crimea

    Simferopol airport (19 March 2014)

    National Geographic plans to show Crimea as part of Russia on its maps, the US News website reports.


    Crimea's deputy PM, Rustam Temirgaliyev, says Tatars will be asked to vacate part of the land they now live on "for social needs", in an interview with Ria Novosti news agency on Tuesday.

    "But we are ready to allocate and legalize many other plots of land to ensure a normal life for the Crimean Tatars," Mr Temirgaliyev said.


    Many Crimean Tatars say they want the peninsula to stay with Ukraine, amidst fears of further deportations. Some 200,000 Tatars were deported to Central Asia and Siberia in 1944 by Josef Stalin, who accused them of collaborating with the German occupiers at the time.

    Members of Crimean Tatar community bury the coffin of Reshat Ametov during his funeral in Simferopol on 18 March 2014.

    Members of the Crimean Tatar community attended the burial ceremony for Reshat Ametov on Tuesday - he was found dead days after witnesses saw him being hauled away by men in military-style jackets during a pro-Ukraine rally.


    tweets: Protesters gather at Kyiv prosecutor's office to demand investigation into attack on news chief by Svoboda lawmakers


    US Vice President Joe Biden has warned that America will respond to any aggression against its Nato allies.

    "Russia cannot escape the fact that the world is changing and rejecting outright their behaviour," he said.

    A Ukrainian officer checks documents at the border crossing of Uspenka on the Ukrainian-Russian border, eastern Ukraine, on 19 March 2014.

    Tensions are also high on Ukraine's eastern border with Russia, where Ukrainian servicemen scrutinise documents at the border crossing of Uspenka.

    Patrick Jackson BBC News, Simferopol

    ‏tweets: Every cash machine I tried in Sevastopol yesterday was empty. Hryvnya still circulating of course, and for a while yet

    16:27: BBC Monitoring reports:

    Okean Elzy, a popular Ukrainian rock act, says its tour of Russia has been put off indefinitely. The band says on its website (in Russian) that the tour was cancelled by its Russian organisers, adding that "we have never cancelled a single show anywhere in the world of our own accord".


    Okean Elzy's lead singer, Svyatoslav Vakarchuk, is an outspoken supporter of the recent protests that ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. Far-right Russian MP Vladimir Zhirinovsky recently branded the band "anti-Russian" and said that its concerts should be banned.


    EU leaders will discuss over dinner on Thursday how to stiffen sanctions against Russia over Crimea - but can they reach a consensus, asks our Europe editor Gavin Hewitt in his latest blog post.

    16:33: BBC Monitoring reports:

    Ukraine's Interim President, Olexander Turchynov, has given the authorities in Crimea three hours to release "all hostages", including Ukrainian navy chief Serhiy Hayduk, Unian news agency reports.


    "The government will take adequate steps unless all provocations against Ukrainian servicemen end, and Admiral Hayduk and other hostages - both military and civilian - are freed by 21:00 (19:00 GMT)," the Ukrainian president has warned.

    Steve Rosenberg BBC News, Donetsk

    tweets: Lenin watching TV this evening on his square in Donetsk. There was a small crowd of pro-Russia protestors here.

    Donetsk Square on 19 March 2014
    16:44: Breaking News

    Ukraine's interim President Olexander Turchynov gives Crimean authorities three hours to release "all hostages" including Ukrainian navy chief Serhiy Hayduk.

    16:54: BBC Monitoring reports:

    Russia has started issuing passports in Crimea, the head of Russia's federal migration service tells Ria Novosti news agency.

    Konstantin Romodanovskiy said that "all the residents of Crimea" who request passports will be issued with them "because as of yesterday they are citizens of the Russian Federation".

    16:58: Chris Morris, Europe correspondent

    The Russification of the Crimean peninsula is accelerating, and there is little that the Ukrainian government can do about it. There is no sign that either western condemnation or western sanctions are having any deterrent effect.

    The Economist

    tweets: Now is not the first time that Crimea has been contested. What was the original Crimean war all about?


    Russia's foreign ministry says Ukraine's comments about the legitimacy of the Crimean referendum were "strange, illogical and legally ignorant", Reuters reports.


    Just hours after leaving a Berlin hospital, Ukraine's ex-PM Yulia Tymoshenko tweets: "I am back. In every sense of the word. Many thanks to those who were supportive and involved in the fighting, and I feel sorry for those who did not expect this." (Translated from Ukrainian)


    Ms Tymoshenko was released from jail after Viktor Yanukovych's ousting in February. Ukraine's interim President Olexander Turchynov belongs to her party, as are many members of the new government in Kiev.


    Need a crash course in the Crimean crisis? Check out our special report featuring videos, maps and to-the-point analysis.


    Russia's Foreign Ministry, in a statement on its website, said that Ukraine was "openly distorting and arbitrarily interpreting the norms of international law".

    Iryna, Bradford, UK

    emails: Absolutely disgusted that the Russians have been allowed to take control of Crimea so easily and nobody is helping the Ukrainians. What good are all these sanctions that are being imposed on Russia - it's not threatening or worrying them whatsoever, the Russians are making a mockery of it all and are carrying on doing what they set out to do.

    17:21: BBC Monitoring reports:

    There are some 3,000 members in the newly-established Ukrainian National Guard in Crimea, says Interior Minister Arsen Avakov. These units, subordinated to the Interior Ministry, "are loyal to their oath of allegiance to Ukraine and are fully functioning," he tells a news conference.


    Speaking about whether the police in Crimea remained loyal to Kiev, Mr Avakov said the situation was "more complicated" and that "the map is patchy, everyone is behaving in their own way," Interfax-Ukraine reports.


    Ukraine will introduce visa requirements for Russian nationals, Ukraine's security chief Andriy Parubiy says in a televised statement on Ukrainian TV. Russian nationals have not had to obtain visas to visit Ukraine since the Soviet Union broke up, BBC Monitoring reports.


    In his statement, Mr Parubiy also accused Russia of trying to provoke a military conflict with Ukraine and disrupt the upcoming presidential elections. Earlier, Russia announced that it had started to issue passports for people in Crimea.

    Daniel Sandford BBC News, Moscow

    tweets: Russia/Ukraine relations deteriorating fast. 1) Ukraine threatening to introduce visas for Russians.

    Daniel Sandford BBC News, Moscow

    tweets: Russia/Ukraine relations deteriorating fast. 2) acting President threatening "techincal" measures if "hostages" not released

    Mounted Cossacks patrol an area near Russian-Ukrainian border near the southern city of Rostov-on-Don, on 19 March 2014.

    Mounted Cossacks patrol near the Ukrainian-Russian border near Rostov-on-Don, southern Russia.


    Ukraine's security chief Andriy Parubiy said the government would appeal to the UN to recognise Crimea as a demilitarised zone and take measures for Russian forces to withdraw from the peninsula.


    Here's shocking footage of far-right Ukrainian MPs who filmed themselves beating the chief of the state broadcaster until he signed a resignation letter.

    Breaking News

    The Ukrainian government is devising plans to withdraw soldiers and their families from Crimea, security chief Andriy Parubiy says.


    "We are developing a plan that would enable us not only to withdraw servicemen, but also members of their families in Crimea, so that they could be quickly and efficiently moved to mainland Ukraine," Mr Parubiy told a televised press conference.


    The emotional - and at times even threatening - tone of President Putin's speech on Tuesday appeared to indicate a new chapter in Russia's relationship with the West. Our diplomatic correspondent Bridget Kendall has read between the lines of the historic address and provided this sharp analysis.


    Washington has urged Russia to talk to Ukraine over the military base standoff in Crimea, says White House spokesman Jay Carney. "The continuing efforts by Russian forces to seize Ukrainian military installations are creating a dangerous situation," he adds.


    Germany has put on hold a deal to deliver a field-exercise simulator to the Russian military. The government said the export was "not justifiable in the current situation", referring to Russia's annexation of Crimea.

    Max Seddon Foreign affairs reporter, Buzzfeed

    tweets: Don't see the logic of Ukraine bringing in a visa regime with Russia, which will disproportionately hurt ordinary Ukrainians in the East


    Ukraine is preparing a military exercise with the US and Great Britain, Ukrainian security chief Andriy Parubiy has said.


    There are reports of a stand-off at an anti-missile base near the Crimean city of Yevpatoria. The compound is apparently surrounded by Russian forces, including snipers, demanding the surrender of Ukrainian soldiers who have so far refused to give themselves up.


    The human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated dramatically, the head of the EU delegation to Ukraine has warned.

    "Reported violations include enforced disappearances, ill-treatment and torture, violent attacks against journalists, restrictions to freedom of the media, freedom of movement and freedom of peaceful assembly," Jan Tombinski said in a statement.


    Crimea has joined the list of European territories that live in the "twilight zone of international sovereignty", Thomas de Wall from the Carnegie Moscow Center writes in this poignant analysis.


    tweets: All quiet now but lots of soldiers out in plaza now with sticks. #crimea #Belbek

    And then tweets: Things calmer. The bangs and shots from near the base are said to be provocations from some unknown party. Not Ukrainian. #belbek #crimea


    In a further development, Ukraine has announced it will leave the Moscow-led Commonwealth of Independent States, an alliance of post-Soviet states.


    Moscow's next step? Russia signals concern at Estonia's treatment of its large ethnic Russian minority, Robert Evans writes in this Reuters piece.

    Arseniy Yatsenyuk (19 March 2014)

    Ukrainian PM Arseniy Yatsenyuk flies from Kiev to Vienna to attend a European People's Party summit. The trip will be a short one as he's due to back in the Ukrainian capital on Friday for talks with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon about the Crimean crisis.


    The UK and Germany both agree that the EU should impose further consequences on Russia, a spokeswoman for British Prime Minister David Cameron, says.

    She said Mr Cameron had called his German counterpart, Angela Merkel, to discuss EU's response ahead of a meeting of the European Council on Thursday.

    19:17: Radoslaw Sikorski, Polish Foreign Minister

    tweets: Has V. Yanukovych commented on the annexation of Crimea? Is he supporting his old or his new homeland? Methinks we are entitled to know.

    Armed Crimean self-defence forces stand outside the Training Centre of the Naval Forces of Ukraine in Sevastopol, Crimea, on 19 March 2014.

    Armed Crimean self-defence forces stand outside a Ukrainian naval training centre they took control of in Sevastopol.


    The deadline given by Ukraine's interim President Olexander Turchynov for the release of the detained navy chief, Serhiy Hayduk, has now passed.


    Ukraine's acting Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsia tells the BBC his government is very concerned about the lives of Ukrainian troops and citizens in Crimea.


    Local people gather, with Russian flags, outside the naval training centre in Sevastopol, which has reportedly been taken over by armed Crimea self-defence forces.

    Local people stand outside the Training Centre of the Naval Forces of Ukraine, while armed Crimean self-defence forces take control of it in Sevastopol, Crimea, on 19 March 2014.
    19:34: Mark Urban diplomatic and defence editor, Newsnight

    tweets: Ukraine govt talks of 'evacuation plan' for Crimea - it fits with rapid Russian mopping up of garrisons here - but it could still go wrong


    Russia will "respond in kind" to US sanctions, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov is quoted as saying by Interfax news agency.


    "We are looking at a broad range of responsive measures. They can be identical measures regarding certain lists of American officials - not necessarily representatives of the administration... who have influenced American policies," Mr Ryabkov says.


    EU and US sanctions announced earlier this week targeted both Russian and Ukrainian officials, including Russian deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin and the head of Russia's upper house, Valentina Matviyenko.


    US Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen says the central bank is watching the situation in Ukraine "very closely" amid concerns of an escalation in the crisis.


    "We are not seeing broader global financial repercussions. But if this were to escalate, that would certainly be something that would be on our radar screen," Ms Yellen tells reporters.


    A Ukrainian sailor holed up inside Sevastopol's naval HQ tells the BBC's Mark Lowen there are only a handful of servicemen still left inside, who have been instructed to stay overnight to protect equipment. The sailor says he expects an order to come through on Thursday to withdraw.

    19:51: Mark Lowen, Simferopol

    When I asked the sailor if he thought this was the end, he told me it's the "end of this chapter" but that Ukraine would not accept the loss of Crimea.

    NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen speaks at the Brookings Institution in Washington DC on 19 on March 2014.

    Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen calls the Crimea crisis "a wake-up call... for the Euro-Atlantic community. For Nato. And for all those committed to a Europe whole, free and at peace". He is in Washington to discuss Ukraine with US officials.


    Nato is concerned Russia may move into eastern Ukraine, Nato's Rasmussen says.

    UN Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin speaks, during a meeting of the UN Security Council on the crisis in Ukraine, on 19 March 2014

    Russia's UN envoy Vitaly Churkin speaks during a UN Security Council session on the Ukraine crisis in New York.

    20:11: Laszlo Bozzay

    tweets: Wise decision to withdraw from #Crimea. Spare your lives, there's got to be another way! Pro-#Ukraine

    20:12: Mark Lowen, Simferopol

    Within the space of three weeks, Russia has managed a very swift and largely bloodless takeover of Crimea. Now it seems impossible to imagine that Kiev can bring Crimea back under its control.

    Mark Urban diplomatic and defence editor, Newsnight

    tweets: One of the Russian self defence commanders who seized Sevastopol Ukraine base began crying as he spoke to us - see our report on BBCNewsnight


    "The situation is unpredictable and uncontrolled sometimes, so that's why there is a danger also for the civilians," Ukraine's acting Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsya told BBC Newshour on Wednesday.

    "We are not forcing them to leave, it's up to them but we of course will provide a means to do this."

    A couple walks past the Crimean parliament bearing the new sign reading "State council of Crimean Republic" in central Simferopol on 18 March 2014.

    A couple stand outside the Crimean parliament, where a new sign reads "State Council of the Crimean Republic" in central Simferopol.


    We're wrapping up our live updates on Crimea on a day that has seen pro-Russian troops consolidate their takeover of key military installations across the peninsula and Ukraine's decision to withdraw its soldiers and their families. You can follow the latest updates on Crimea and on other stories via our BBC News website.


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