Heavily armed gunmen seized a number of government office buildings in Ukraine’s Crimea region on Thursday, and have reportedly raised a Russia flag above one of their barricades, according to the AP.
The startling escalation of tensions on the restive peninsula comes nearly a week after pro-Kremlin Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych fled Kiev, much to the chagrin of Russian President Vladmir Putin, who was accused of propping up the embattled leader during months of protest against his rule.
Acting Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov warned that if Russian forces left their naval base in nearby Sevastopol, the home of Moscow’s Black Sea fleet, his caretaker administration would consider the move an act of “military aggression.”
The gunmen inside the Crimean parliamentarian building have yet to release any demands, but have erected a sign saying “Crimea is Russia.”
Since Yanukovych’s ousting on Feb. 22, Ukraine has seen escalating and often violent pro-Russia and pro-Europe divisions.