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World/National News

March 1, 2014

Obama warns Russia over military moves in Crimea

(Continued)

A car with Russian military plates was stopped at the roadblock. A man wearing a military uniform with a Russian flag on his sleeve got out of the car and was allowed to enter on foot after a brief discussion with the gunmen.

Meanwhile, Ukraine International Airlines said it had canceled flights to and from the Simferopol airport on Friday evening and Saturday because of the closure of the airspace over Crimea. The announcement did not say who had ordered the closure.

At the airport, dozens of armed men in military uniforms without markings patrolled the area. They didn’t stop or search people leaving or entering the airport, and refused to talk to journalists.

One man who identified himself only as Vladimir said the men were part of the Crimean People’s Brigade, which he described as a self-defense unit ensuring that no “radicals and fascists” arrive from other parts of Ukraine. There was no way to verify his account.

The airport deployments came a day after masked gunmen with rocket-propelled grenades and sniper rifles seized the parliament and government offices in Simferopol and raised the Russian flag. Ukrainian police cordoned off the area but didn’t confront the gunmen. They remained in control of the buildings Friday.

In Kiev, the prosecutor-general’s office said it would seek Yanukovych’s extradition to Ukraine, where he is wanted on suspicion of mass murder in violent clashes last week between protesters and police that left more than 80 people dead.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s telecom provider, Ukrtelecom JSC, said unknown people seized several communications centers in the Crimea late Friday, knocking out the company’s ability to connect the peninsula with the rest of the country. The statement on the company’s website said there were almost no landline, Internet or mobile services operating in the Crimea.

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