KIEV, Ukraine, Feb. 28 (UPI) -- Unidentified armed men began patrolling outside the Simferopol airport in Ukraine's Crimea region on Friday, with some speculating that the men were Russian soldiers.
Newly appointed Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov believed the men to be Russian soldiers, and spoke out against their presence in a Facebook message, saying, "I consider what has happened to be an armed invasion and occupation in violation of all international agreements and norm."
A Simferopol airport spokesman told Interfax-Ukraine that despite the raid, the airport "is operating as usual at the moment."
The airport occupation follow the seizure of government buildings in Crimea on Thursday by armed gunmen who raised Russian flags above the buildings. Clashes between pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian interim government groups turned deadly in the mostly pro-Russian Crimea region, with two reported deaths and 35 injured.
In the midst of Ukraine's political transition, the U.S. administration has repeatedly called upon Russia to respect the sovereign territorial integrity of Ukraine. Despite assurances from Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, suspicion and uneasiness persist that Russia is maneuvering to take advantage of its vulnerable neighbor.
[BBC] [Interfax Ukraine News Agency]