Tuesday 19 November 2019

Ukraine crisis: Russian convoy enters Crimea military base near Simferopol

Move comes after pro-Russian troops reportedly halt international observer group from entering from north of region

A CONVOY of 50 trucks carrying what are thought to be hundreds of Russian soldiers has reportedly driven into a base near Crimea's capital Simferopol.

The convoy was accompanied by eight armoured vehicles, two ambulances, petrol tankers and other hardware according to Reuters reporters in the Russian-occupied Ukrainian province.


None of the vehicles bore any military insignia or carried licence plates.


While Russia says its only troops in the region are those normally stationed there with its Black Sea Fleet, Kiev says there are 30,000 currently in Crimea. Washington has described Russia's claims as "Putin's fiction" and puts the number at around 20,000.


Earlier today, pro-Russian forces refused to let a foreign military mission enter Crimea from the north, according to the Associated Press.


Armed men reportedly fired warning shots into the air to make the vehicles stop and told the group – from  the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe – that they had no authorization to enter Crimea. The vehicles in the convoy bore no insignia or number plates The vehicles in the convoy bore no insignia or number plates 


In other developments, Poland confirmed that it had evacuated its consulate in Sevastopol, Crimea, due to disturbances by Russian forces.


Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said on Twitter: "Because of continuing disturbances by Russian forces there, we have reluctantly evacuated our consulate in Crimea, Ukraine."


The Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs added that the consulate in Ukrainian city of Odessa would take over the duties of the Sevastopol unit.


The ministry called on Polish citizens to leave the Crimean peninsula and avoid travelling to eastern areas of Ukraine.


Russia and Ukraine are locked in a tense standoff over the largely ethnically Russian region of Crimea after Ukraine's president Viktor Yanukovych was ousted by protesters two weeks ago.


Steve Anderson, Independent.co.uk

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