SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine – The airport of Crimea's capital Simferopol was operating normally on Friday despite earlier reports that it had been seized overnight by some 50 unknown armed assailants.
Access to the airport was open and passengers were checking in for flights, a journalist reported, but about a dozen unidentified armed men could be seen outside the airport perimeter.
Some 50 armed men on Friday seized the airport of Crimea's capital Simferopol, a day after pro-Russian gunmen took over government buildings in the city, Interfax-Ukraine news agency reported, citing witnesses.
After dozens of pro-Russian gunmen seized government buildings in the volatile peninsula – raising fears of a full-blown regional conflict – NATO leader Anders Fogh Rasmussen tweeted his concern and pleaded forein countries "not to take any action that can escalate tension or create misunderstanding."
Rasmussen later told a meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission that developments in Crimea were "dangerous and irresponsible," and pleaded for "all parties to step back from confrontation."
Russia said it would abide by treaties governing the fleet.
President Vladimir Putin ordered snap military drills near the Ukrainian border. But US Secretary of State John Kerry said he had received assurances from his counterpart Sergei Lavrov.
He "reaffirmed President Putin's statement that Russia will respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine and we believe that everybody now needs to step back and avoid any kind of provocations."
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe expressed "serious concern" over the situation in Crimea and said it would be sending two envoys to the region in the coming days. AFP