Ukraine says Russian tries to seize airports, base

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Unidentified gunmen wearing camouflage uniforms guard the entrance to the military airport at the Black Sea port of Sevastopol in Crimea, Ukraine, Friday, Feb. 28, 2014. Russian troops took control of the two main airports in the strategic peninsula of Crimea, Ukraine’s interior minister charged Friday, as the country asked the U.N. Security Council to intervene in the escalating conflict. Russian state media said Russian forces in Crimea denied involvement. No violence was reported at the civilian airport in Crimea’s capital of Simferopol or at the military airport in the Black Sea port of Sevastopol, also part of Crimea. At the Simferopol airport, a man claiming to speak for the camouflage-clad forces patrolling the airport described them as Crimean militiamen. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

Unidentified gunmen wearing camouflage uniforms guard the entrance to the military airport at the Black Sea port of Sevastopol in Crimea, Ukraine, Friday, Feb. 28, 2014. Russian troops took control of the two main airports in the strategic peninsula of Crimea, Ukraine’s interior minister charged Friday, as the country asked the U.N. Security Council to intervene in the escalating conflict. Russian state media said Russian forces in Crimea denied involvement. No violence was reported at the civilian airport in Crimea’s capital of Simferopol or at the military airport in the Black Sea port of Sevastopol, also part of Crimea. At the Simferopol airport, a man claiming to speak for the camouflage-clad forces patrolling the airport described them as Crimean militiamen. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

Ukraine’s fugitive President Viktor Yanukovych gives a news conference in Rostov-on-Don, a city in southern Russia about 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) from Moscow, Friday, Feb. 28, 2014. Making his first public appearance since fleeing Ukraine, fugitive Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych pledged Friday to fight for his country’s future but said he will not ask for military assistance. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

Unidentified gunmen wearing camouflage uniforms block the road toward the military airport at the Black Sea port of Sevastopol in Crimea, Ukraine, Friday, Feb. 28, 2014. Heightened security is evident with Russian military around Sevastopol, the location for Russia military bases, military airport and Naval Base, while unidentified armed men wearing uniforms without insignia were patrolling another airport serving the regional capital, Ukraine’s new Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said on Friday. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

Unidentified armed man patrols a square in front of the airport in Simferopol, Ukraine, Friday, Feb. 28, 2014. Dozens of armed men in military uniforms without markings patroled the airport in the capital of Ukraine’s strategic Crimea region on Friday as tensions in the country’s Russian-speaking southeast escalated. (AP Photo/Andrew Lubimov)

An unidentified armed man patrols a square in front of the airport in Simferopol, Ukraine, Friday, Feb. 28, 2014. Russian military were blocking the airport in the Black Sea port of Sevastopol in Crimea near the Russian naval base while unidentified men were patrolling another airport serving the regional capital, Ukraine’s new Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said on Friday. (AP Photo/Andrew Lubimov)

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SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine accused Russia of a “military invasion and occupation” on Friday, saying Russian troops have taken up positions around a coast guard base and two airports on its strategic Crimea peninsula. Russia kept silent on the accusations, as the crisis deepened between two of Europe’s largest countries.

Any Russian military incursion in Crimea would dramatically raise the stakes in Ukraine’s conflict, which saw pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych flee last weekend after three months of anti-government protests. Yanukovych vowed Friday at a news conference in Russia to “keep fighting for the future of Ukraine,” though he called any military action “unacceptable.”

Moscow has vowed to protect Russian-speaking Ukrainians in Crimea, where it has a major naval base, and Ukraine and the West have warned Russia to stay away. Russia did not confirm its troops were involved in Friday’s action in Crimea, which would be a major escalation.

In Kiev, Ukraine’s parliament adopted a resolution demanding that Russia halt steps it says are aimed against Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and called for a U.N. Security Council meeting on the crisis.

“I can only describe this as a military invasion and occupation,” Ukraine’s newly named interior minister, Arsen Avakov, wrote in a Facebook post.

The chief of Ukraine’s security council, Andriy Parubiy, seemed to strike a less strident tone later in the day, saying gunmen had tried to “seize” the airports in the Crimean cities of Simferopol and Sevastopol but insisting in comments to the Interfax news agency that “de-facto the airports are controlled by the law enforcement bodies of Ukraine.”

Ukraine’s State Border Guard Service also said about 30 Russian marines from Russia’s Black Sea Fleet — which is based in Sevastopol — had taken up position outside the Ukrainian Coast Guard base in the area. It said the marines said they were there to prevent any weapons at the base from being seized by extremists.

Russia’s defense ministry had no comment.

Yanukovych made his first public appearance since fleeing Ukraine in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, not far from the Ukrainian border. It was the first confirmation that he had left the country, and he said he was “forced” to do so only after his family received threats.

“I intend to keep fighting for the future of Ukraine,” he said.

Yanukovych said he supports Crimea’s residents who are worried about “nationalists” in Kiev and added that Russia cannot stand by while events in Ukraine unfold. He denied, however, that this amounts to a call for military intervention.

“Any military action in this situation is unacceptable,” he said.

The prosecutor-general’s office in Kiev said it would seek Yanukovych’s extradition to Ukraine, where he is wanted on suspicion of mass murder in last week’s violent clashes between protesters and police, during which over 80 people were killed.

Associated Press journalists approaching the Sevastopol airport found the road leading up to it blocked by two military trucks and a handful of gunmen

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