March 24, 2014 in Nation/World

Ukraine says missing officers in Crimea being held by Russia

Sergei L. Loiko Los Angeles Times
 

MOSCOW – Three Ukrainian military officers on the Crimean peninsula remained missing Sunday and were believed to be held by Russian forces, a Ukrainian official said, as the Russians continued to seek full control of the peninsula’s military sites.

Col. Yuliy Mamchur, the commander of an air force unit stationed in the town of Lubimovka near Sevastopol, had been missing more than 24 hours Sunday evening after he was taken by Russian troops, said Alexei Mazepa, a Ukrainian Defense Ministry spokesman.

The deputy commander of Ukraine’s navy, Ihor Voronchenko, was also unaccounted for and believed held by the Russians after he left navy headquarters in Sevastopol, which is under Russian control, Mazepa said.

Another officer, navy Capt. V. M. Demyanenko, was taken by the Russians in Sevastopol on Sunday morning and his whereabouts remained unknown by evening.

Russian forces occupied Crimea late last month, surrounding most Ukrainian military bases and units. Russian President Vladimir Putin declared last week that his country was taking over Crimea after a referendum among the region’s voters, a majority of whom speak Russian, backing annexation.

Since then, Russian troops and pro-Russian militia have been seizing military sites still in Ukrainian hands. The Russian Defense Ministry press service reported Sunday that its nation’s flag has been raised and the Russian national anthem sung at the sites of 189 Ukrainian military units deployed in Crimea.

On Saturday, Russian troops used six armored vehicles to break through the fence around Mamchur’s air force unit and then fired into the air, subduing the base’s personnel. One Ukrainian officer reportedly was injured.

At least two Ukraine army units and three naval vessels also were still resisting the Russian troops, said Dmitry Tymchuk, a Ukrainian defense expert.

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