Just in case it wasn't clear Russia had re-claimed Crimea for itself, Russian flags are now flying outside of Ukraine’s naval headquarters.
Wednesday morning Russian-backed forces stormed a Ukrainian naval headquarters in the Crimean city of Sevastopol. A Navy staffer told CNN Ukrainian naval officers tried negotiating with the armed men. (Via CNN)
Ukrainian flags were replaced with three Russian flags outside of the base's entrance. Here’s how a reporter for Sky News described the chaos. (Via BBC)
“It seems a lot to pro-Russian demonstrators and militias are growing in confidence. They know they have the full weight of the Russian military behind them.” (Via Sky News)
It’s unclear whether the men — some of them armed — were actually soldiers with Russia's Black Sea Fleet.
Despite evidence to the contrary, for the past few weeks Moscow has maintained the unidentified soldiers in Crimea are just local self-defense forces. But on Wednesday, an Al-Jazeera reporter at the scene described seeing Russian soldiers at the naval base. (Via Channel 4)
"The civilian men came in, followed by Russian forces. They stormed the building and made the Ukrainian forces leave.” (Via Al Jazeera)
This comes a day after a Ukrainian soldier became the first casualty of the crisis when unidentified gunmen stormed a Crimean military base and opened fire. (Via Deutsche Welle)
That same day, President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty with Crimean officials to annex the peninsula. (Via RT)
The U.S. and its European allies had already imposed sanctions on key Russian and Ukrainian officials. After Putin signed the treaty, the White House said it planned to increase those sanctions.