Russian forces have invaded Ukraine, according to the Foreign Ministry in Kiev, with troops taking control of the village of Strilkove, six miles beyond the border of Crimea. The move comes ahead of Sunday’s referendum on whether the Black Sea peninsula should secede and become part of the Russian Federation.
According to AP, the seizure of the village, which involved troops, helicopter gunships and armoured vehicles, is the first move outside the peninsula by the Kremlin’s forces. There were no reports of gunshots fired in the village.
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry condemned the move by Moscow, adding that Kiev "reserves the right to use all necessary measures to stop the military invasion by Russia." The Ministry said that a force of 80 soldiers seized the village. Ukrainian border guard Oleg Slobodyan told AP that around 120 Russians had invaded, adding that the soldiers had taken control of a gas distribution centre.
Within Crimea, reports from journalists suggest that Russian Special Forces have stormed hotels, with masked men brandishing "silenced Kalashnikovs" placing residents briefly under house arrest. Russian and Crimean authorities claimed the move was part of a training exercise, then a hunt for an "armed criminal".
6th floor of hotel Moskva right now pic.twitter.com/UoZnx5pTCl— Simon Shuster (@shustry) March 15, 2014