Military and civilian hostages are being held in Ukrainian naval headquarters in the Crimean city of Sevastopol, the acting president of Ukraine said Wednesday, demanding their release immediately.
Acting President of Ukraine Oleksander Turchinov gave the "self-proclaimed government of Crimea" three hours — until 9 p.m. local time, 3 p.m. ET — to release all hostages and stop provocations on the peninsula, according to Turchinov's website.
Earlier Wednesday, pro-Russian forces stormed the Ukrainian naval headquarters in Sevastopol, witnesses said.
That provocation, by the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, resulted in the Commander of Naval Forces of Ukraine, Rear Admiral Sergey Hayduk, being "taken hostage," Turchinov's website said.
"This is not the first incidence of the unlawful seizure of military and civilians in the Crimea," Turchinov said.
Turchinov warned that if provocations against Ukrainian troops do not stop, and if Hayduk and all other hostages, both military and civilian, are not released by 9 p.m. local time, authorities "will take appropriate measures."
It was not clear how many others were allegedly being held. Radio reports said at least six Ukrainian activists and journalists opposed to Russia's Crimea takeover had gone missing in the peninsula in the past 10 days. The abductors were not identified.
On Tuesday, armed Russian soldiers stormed a Ukrainian military installation near Simferopol, the capital of Crimea.
The actions may be a sign of Russia taking over Ukrainian facilities, now that Russian President Vladimir Putin official put the Crimean peninsula back on the Russian map.
Putin signed a treaty with Crimean leaders on Tuesday making Crimea a part of Russia, despite the threat of even more U.S. sanctions against his country.
— Elizabeth Chuck
First published March 19 2014, 11:39 AM