Yanukovych Supporters Seize Crimean Institutions
Parliament and government headquarters in Ukraine's autonomous region of Crimea have been seized by a pro-Russian faction.
Russian flags are flying over the building and also over other institutions in the Crimean capital Simferopol, as the BBC reports.
The news was first communicated by Refat Chubarov, who chairs the Council of Crimean Tatars and then confirmed by MPs in Kiev.
On Thursday morning, no government workers were allowed to enter their offices, and barricades were seen in front of the parliament.
No demands have so far been made by the occupiers, who are unwilling to contact journalists or security forces.
Russian Interfax agency has claimed that the occupiers are controlled by "representatives of Russian-language population's self-defense unit" in Crimea. These squads, as the agency has learned, are being formed throughout the entire peninsula.
On Wednesday, parallel rallies of supporters, mostly Crimean Tatars and opposition to the new Ukrainian leadership, comprised by the Russian-speaking majority, led to scuffles in Crimea.
They were caused by rumours about an upcoming parliamentary decision on a possible secession of the pro-Yanukovych region.
An elderly man died, allegedly from a heart attack during the clashes.
Both the West and Russia have pledged to keep the territorial integrity of Ukraine as it was determined by a memorandum in 1994.
Crimea is known as a pro-Yanukovych bastion, but also as home to the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol until 2042.