A Ukrainian serviceman was reportedly shot and killed and another injured in Crimea Tuesday, just hours after Russia formally moved to annex the territory. Global leaders on alert in case the situation escalates, as it has been feared for weeks that an act of violence like this could spark a larger fight.
#Simferopol at least 2 bursts of gunfire here - report of Ukrainian officer killed in this Ukrainian base— Ben Brown (@BenBrownBBC) March 18, 2014
Ukrainian military spokesman also says all men on base arrested and their weapons taken and wounded captain taken to hospital for treatment.— Ed Flanagan (@edmundflanagan) March 18, 2014
Ukraine's military spokesman Vladislav Seleznyov said it's not yet clear who killed the officer, but identified the attackers as "unknown forces, fully equipped and their faces covered." But Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk, blamed the attack on Russia, saying the country had committed a war crime by firing on Ukrainian troops:
The conflict is moving from a political one to a military one because of Russian soldiers. Today, Russian soldiers began shooting at Ukrainian servicemen and this is a war crime without any expiry under a statute of limitations.
Eyewitnesses also reported the movement of Russian forces in Crimea:
Ukrainian military spokesman also confirms what we saw: russian military snipers were in action around base.— Ed Flanagan (@edmundflanagan) March 18, 2014
Reports from Simferopol that Russians prevented ambulances from entering the scene of shooting where 1 Ukr. was killed, 2 wounded #Crimea— Olga Tokariuk (@olgatokariuk) March 18, 2014
Russia is maintaining its innocence per usual, according to ABC's Alexander Marquardt, even claiming they (or their local "defense fighters") were the ones fired upon:
The violence comes just hours after Russia signed a treaty to annex Crimea and Putin said he wanted friendly relations with Ukraine. (He's also praised Ukraine's military for their restraint during the standoffs.) But the document basically means nothing to the international community at this point. The Guardian reports that according to White House press secretary Jay Carney, "Russia's attempt to annex a region of Ukraine illegally will never be recognized by the U.S. or the international community." The sentiment echoes what French President Francois Hollande, among others, said earlier today.