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Tuesday 30 September 2014

Top commander 'held in Crimea'

Published 23/03/2014 | 07:12

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A Russian machine gunner controls the gate of the Belbek airbase, outside Sevastopol, Crimea (AP)
Soldiers with Russian and Crimean patches and pro-Russian militia members guard outside the Belbek airbase (AP)

A top air force commander is being held after his base in Crimea was stormed by pro-Russian forces, Ukraine's acting president said as he called for his release.

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Oleksandr Turchynov said Colonel Yuliy Mamchur was "abducted" by the forces, but did not specify where he is believed to be held.

Mr Mamchur is the commander of the Belbek Air Force base near Sevastopol, which was taken over on Saturday by forces who sent armoured personnel carriers smashing through the base's walls and fired shots and stun grenades.

One Ukrainian serviceman was reported wounded in the clash. It was unclear if the forces, who did not bear insignia, were Russian military or local pro-Russia militia.

It was the last major Ukrainian military facility in Crimea to fall into the hands of pro-Russian forces. The Ukrainian defence ministry has not provided details of how many bases it still controls on the peninsula.

Crimea residents voted last week to secede from Ukraine and join Russia - a process that was formalised this week with the blessing of President Vladimir Putin.

The vote, which was held under condition akin to martial law under the gaze of apparently Moscow-led militia forces, has been rejected as illegitimate by the international community.

The assault on the Belbek base mirrored events at other Ukrainian-held military facilities on the peninsula in recent days.

Press Association

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