US Official: Russia in Control of Ukraines Crimea Province

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Mary Chastain reports:  A senior Obama administration official said Russia has complete control of Crimea and that there are more than 6,000 airborne and naval forces in the peninsula.

UPDATE: and from London, 12.13am GMT:

The BBC’s indomitable Nick Sutton, nightly tweeter of tomorrow’s Fleet Street front pages, notes that Ukraine leads on most.

Among them, The Sun has its own characteristic take on the crisis.

“Russian forces now have complete operational control of the Crimean peninsula, some 6,000-plus airborne and naval forces, with considerable materiel,” the official said in a briefing for reporters. “There is no question that they are in an occupation position in Crimea…”

Pro-Russian militants near a local government building in Simferopol, Ukraine. The new government of Ukraine has appealed to the UN security council for help against growing Russian intervention in Crimea. Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Pro-Russian militants near a local government building in Simferopol, Ukraine. Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

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BREAKING: Russian Upper House Votes On Use of Force in Ukraine

Simferopol, Ukraine CNN — [Breaking News Update, 10:02 a.m. ET] CNN — Russias upper house of parliament voted Saturday to approve the use of military force in Ukraine. The vote was unanimous.

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Russia Invades: Gunmen Seize Crimean Airport

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MARY CHASTAIN reports:  Gunmen seized the Crimea airport, less than 24 hours after gunmen seized government buildings in Simferopol.

Witnesses told the Interfax news agency that the 50 or so men were wearing the same gear as the ones who seized government buildings in the city, Simferopol, on Thursday and raised the Russian flag. 

The report said the men with “Russian Navy ensigns” first surrounded the Simferopol Airport’s domestic flights terminal.

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Crimea retaliated after Ukraine ousted former president Viktor Yanukovich on February 22. The majority of residents are ethnic Russians and they made it known their loyalties lie with Russia. After Yanukovich left, Crimea kicked out their Kiev-appointed mayor and elected a Russian mayor.

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BREAKING: Crimean Parliament Stormed, Russian Flag Raised

Ukrainian police stand guard in front the Crimean parliament building in Simferopol February 27, 2014. Armed men seized the regional government headquarters and parliament on Ukraine's Crimea peninsula on Thursday and raised the Russian flag in a challenge to the country's new rulers.   REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Ukrainian police stand guard in front the Crimean parliament building in Simferopol February 27, 2014. Armed men seized the regional government headquarters and parliament on Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula on Thursday and raised the Russian flag in a challenge to the country’s new rulers. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Alessandra Prentice reports:  Armed men seized the regional government headquarters and parliament in Ukraine’s Crimea on Thursday and raised the Russian flag, alarming Kiev’s new rulers, who urged Moscow not to abuse its navy base rights on the peninsula by moving troops around.

“We were building barricades in the night to protect parliament. Then this young Russian guy came up with a pistol … we all lay down, some more ran up, there was some shooting and around 50 went in through the window…”

“I am appealing to the military leadership of the Russian Black Sea fleet,” said Olexander Turchinov, acting president since the removal of Viktor Yanukovich last week. “Any military movements, the more so if they are with weapons, beyond the boundaries of this territory (the base) will be seen by us as military aggression.

Ukrainian police separate ethnic Russians (R) and Crimean Tatars during rallies near the Crimean parliament building in Simferopol February 26, 2014. Thousands of pro-Russia separatists tussled with supporters of Ukraine's new leaders in Crimea on Wednesday as tempers boiled over the future of the region following the upheaval that swept away President Viktor Yanukovich. One person died, apparently of a heart attack, and two others were trampled and injured when people stumbled and fell to the ground in the crush, witnesses said. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Ukrainian police separate ethnic Russians (R) and Crimean Tatars during rallies near the Crimean parliament building in Simferopol February 26, 2014. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry also summoned Russia’s acting envoy in Kiev for immediate consultations.

“We have our own constitution, Crimea is autonomous. The government in Kiev are fascists, and what they’re doing is illegal … We need to show our support for the guys inside…Power should be ours.”

There were mixed signals from Moscow, which put fighter jets along its western borders on combat alert, but earlier said it would take part in discussions on an International Monetary Fund (IMF) financial package for Ukraine. Ukraine has said it needs $35 billion over the next two years to stave off bankruptcy.

Ukrainian police separate ethnic Russians and Crimean Tatars during rallies near the Crimean parliament building in Simferopol February 26, 2014. Thousands of pro-Russia separatists tussled with supporters of Ukraine's new leaders in Crimea on Wednesday as tempers boiled over the future of the region following the upheaval that swept away President Viktor Yanukovich. One person died, apparently of a heart attack, and two others were trampled and injured when people stumbled and fell to the ground in the crush, witnesses said. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Ukrainian police separate ethnic Russians and Crimean Tatars during rallies near the Crimean parliament building in Simferopol February 26, 2014.   REUTERS/Baz Ratner

The fear of military escalation prompted expressions of concern from the West, with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen urging Russia not to do anything that would “escalate tension or create misunderstanding”.

Polish foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski called the seizure of government buildings in the Crimea a “very dangerous game”.

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