Crimea: 11,000 pro-Russian troops in control

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This image taken from AP video shows a group of unidentified men in military fatigues outside a cafe in Simferopol, Ukraine who appear to be stopping UN Special Envoy to Ukraine, Robert Serry from leaving as he makes a call on his mobile phone inside, Wednesday, March 5, 2014. The special U.N. envoy who is visiting Crimea was threatened by 10 to 15 armed men on Wednesday and ordered to leave the region, where Ukraine and Russia are locked in a tense standoff, U.N. officials said. Later, an Associated Press reporter found Robert Serry in the business class lounge of the Simferopol airport on Wednesday evening. “I’m safe. My visit was interrupted for reasons that I cannot understand,” the Dutch diplomat said in a statement to AP. He said nothing more. (AP Photo/AP video)

This image taken from AP video shows a group of unidentified men in military fatigues outside a cafe in Simferopol, Ukraine who appear to be stopping UN Special Envoy to Ukraine, Robert Serry from leaving as he makes a call on his mobile phone inside, Wednesday, March 5, 2014. The special U.N. envoy who is visiting Crimea was threatened by 10 to 15 armed men on Wednesday and ordered to leave the region, where Ukraine and Russia are locked in a tense standoff, U.N. officials said. Later, an Associated Press reporter found Robert Serry in the business class lounge of the Simferopol airport on Wednesday evening. “I’m safe. My visit was interrupted for reasons that I cannot understand,” the Dutch diplomat said in a statement to AP. He said nothing more. (AP Photo/AP video)

Pro-Russian activists follow special U.N. envoy Robert Serry in front of the airport in Simferopol, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 5, 2014. The special U.N. envoy visiting Crimea was threatened by 10 to 15 armed men on Wednesday and ordered to leave the region, where Ukraine and Russia are locked in a tense standoff. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

This image taken from AP video shows Robert Serry sat in a cafe in Simferopol, Ukraine, as he makes a call on his mobile phone, Wednesday, March 5, 2014 as men in famouflage outfits stood outside. The special U.N. envoy who is visiting Crimea was threatened by 10 to 15 armed men on Wednesday and ordered to leave the region, where Ukraine and Russia are locked in a tense standoff, U.N. officials said. Later, an Associated Press reporter found Robert Serry in the business class lounge of the Simferopol airport on Wednesday evening. “I’m safe. My visit was interrupted for reasons that I cannot understand,” the Dutch diplomat said in a statement to AP. He said nothing more. (AP Photo/AP video)

Riot police stand at the entrance of the regional administrative building during a rally in Donetsk, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 5, 2014. Hundreds of demonstrators waving Russian flags have stormed a government building in Donetsk in the eastern Ukraine. The region is the home area of fugitive Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled the country after massive protests in Kiev. (AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov)

Pro-Russia demonstrators holding a Russian flag, with the Ukrainian emblem in the background, stand on the balcony of the regional administrative building after storming it in Donetsk, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 5, 2014. Hundreds of demonstrators waving Russian flags have stormed a government building in Donetsk in the eastern Ukraine. The region is the home area of fugitive Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled the country after massive protests in Kiev. (AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov)

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SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine (AP) — Pro-Russian forces numbering more than 11,000 controlled all access to Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and have blockaded all military bases that have not yet surrendered, Crimea’s new leader said.

The West has joined the new Ukrainian leadership in Kiev in demanding that Russia pull its forces from Crimea, but little progress was reported after a flurry of diplomatic activity in Paris on Wednesday involving U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

The European Union leaders will meet for an emergency session in Brussels on Thursday to decide what sorts of sanctions they can impose on Russia over its actions in Ukraine. Moscow has threatened to retaliate if any punitive measures are put in place.

A U.N. special envoy sent to Crimea came under threat from armed men who forced him to leave the region.

Concern that the turmoil could engulf eastern Ukraine grew after hundreds of demonstrators — many chanting “Russia! Russia! — stormed a government building on Wednesday in Donetsk, a major industrial center near the Russian border.

Clashes between protesters and police broke out early Thursday in Donetsk as police cleared demonstrators from the building. Dozens were detained.

The European Union on Wednesday extended $15 billion in aid to help support the new Ukrainian government, which took over in late February after months of protests drove out the Moscow-supported president, Viktor Yanukovych.

The EU also imposed asset freezes against 18 people held responsible for embezzling state funds in Ukraine, including Yanukovych, his son and some of his closest allies.

Crimea’s new leader, Sergei Aksyonov, said his government was in regular contact with the Russian officials, including those in a large Russian delegation now in Crimea.

Speaking at Crimea’s government meeting late Wednesday, Aksyonov said the strategic peninsula is fully under the control of riot police and security forces joined by about 11,000 “self-defense” troops. All or most of these troops are believed to be Russian, even though the Russian president and defense minister have denied sending in the military other than those stationed at the home port of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.

Associated Press

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