Russia claims that the troops have taken over Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula are “self-defence forces created by the inhabitants of Crimea, we have no authority over them.”
But an increasing number of Russian soldiers are riding in on Russian armoured vehicles into the strategic Black Sea peninsula.
For more than a week Russian troops wearing uniforms without insignia have been commandeering Ukrainian military facilities and urging besieged Ukrainian soldiers to defect.
The Russians tightened their grip on Sunday, sealing off a military airport on Crimea’s west coast and capturing a nearby Ukrainian border post with 15 personnel inside. On Monday, they took
over a military hospital and a missile base.
Russian forces now controls 11 border guard posts across Crimea, and have issued several ultimatums for the Ukrainians in bases to surrender or be stormed.
The demands have passed without serious incident, but the Ukrainians are still blocked in.
Here are some disquieting scenes from the occupation:
There are about 20,000 Russian soldiers in Crimea.
Uniformed men, believed to be Russian servicemen, walk in formation near a Ukrainian military base in the village of Perevalnoye outside Simferopol, March 6, 2014.
Hiding in plain sight.
A uniformed man, believed to be a Russian serviceman, stands guard near a Ukrainian military base outside the city of Sevastopol, March 7, 2014.
The two sides converse and trade cigarettes.
A Ukrainian serviceman (rear L) gives a cigarette to a uniformed man (R), believed to be a Russian serviceman, at a Ukrainian military base in the village of Perevalnoye, outside Simferopol, March 6, 2014.
But that’s all part of the siege.
A Ukrainian serviceman watches uniformed men, believed to be Russian servicemen, passing by at a Ukrainian military base in the village of Perevalnoye outside Simferopol, March 6, 2014.
The Ukrainians are treated as ‘occupiers‘ and hostages in their own bases.
A Ukrainian serviceman talks on the phone at a Ukrainian military base in the village of Perevalnoye, outside Simferopol, March 6, 2014.
“They are putting psychological pressure on us,” Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Lomaka told Reuters from a military base on the coast of western Crimea. “We have no fight with them, but we are not going to hand over our weapons to soldiers of the Russian Federation,” Lt. Col. Alexander Lomaka said.
Ukrainian servicemen look out of the gate of their military base near Sevastopol, March 8, 2014.
Russia has deliberately sunk three of its own ships to block Ukraine’s navy.
An abandoned naval ship sunk by the Russian navy to block the entrance is seen in the Crimean port of Yevpatorya March 8, 2014.
Ukrainian sailors, completely blocked in, are smuggling food onto their warships ships.
Ukrainian sailors stand guard on top of a Ukrainian navy ship at the Crimean port of Yevpatorya March 8, 2014.
And waiting the superior fleet of Russia to make its next move.
A Ukrainian sailor stands guard on top of a Ukrainian navy ship at the Crimean port of Yevpatorya March 8, 2014.
Russian troops roam outside all key military installations.
An armed man, believed to be a Russian serviceman, stands guard outside an Ukrainian military base in the village of Perevalnoye near the Crimean city of Simferopol March 9, 2014. Shots were fired in Crimea to warn off an unarmed international team of monitors and at a Ukrainian observation plane, as the standoff between occupying Russian forces and besieged Ukrainian troops intensified.
And pro-Russian “self-defence forces” are mobilizing within the peninsula.
Members of a pro-Russian self defence unit stand in formation as they take an oath to the Crimea government in Simferopol March 8, 2014.
Here are some of the scenes from last week:
Ukrainian soldiers, left watch as a Russian soldier guards the gate of an infantry base in Perevalne, Ukraine, Tuesday, March 4, 2014.
Ukrainian soldiers watched as a Russian soldiers surrounded them.
A Russian soldier lies with his back to Ukrainian fighter jets as he watches Ukrainian serviceman at the Belbek airport in the Crimea region March 4, 2014.
Belbek airport was especially tense. Here’s a Russian soldier looking through the sights of his weapon.
A Russian soldier looks through the sights of his weapon as Ukrainian servicemen wait at Belbek airport in the Crimea region March 4, 2014.
The vehicles and weaponry on the Russian side are substantial.
The Ukrainian soldiers at Balbek marched in defiance of the siege.
Ukrainian servicemen carry flags as they leave Belbek airport in the Crimea region March 4, 2014.
Soldiers under Russian command watched them as the unarmed soldiers marched, aiming a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.
When they got closer, the soldiers shouted and warning shots were fired in the air.
Another soldier restrained his colleague after he fired his weapon into the air.
Here a Russian serviceman is seen behind pro-Russian “self-defence forces” at Belbek.
And there’s a Russian tank blocking the a road near the small Ukrainian city of Armyansk, which connects Crimea with the rest of Ukraine.
The Russians continue waiting, watching, trying to convince Ukrainian soldiers to give up their arms and pledge allegiance to local pro-Kremlin authorities.
Military personnel, believed to be Russian servicemen, stand guard outside the territory of a Ukrainian military unit in the village of Perevalnoye outside Simferopol March 4, 2014.
While the besieged Ukrainian soldiers wait at their posts, surrounded.
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