Ukraine has accused Russia of an invasion as armed gunmen take yet another key building in the Crimea region. No one is officially claiming responsibility for the capture of an airport in Simferopol.
"They don't have any insignia on their uniforms. It's unknown exactly who they are. ... The Ukrainian interior minister says these are Russian soldiers and has accused Russia of a military invasion." (Via BBC)
"Russia denies that is the case. It denies that it has moved any troops into the region outside its own Black Sea fleet headquarters. It describes what's happening there as people's self defense militia." (Via Sky News)
This comes just a day after protests thousands strong ended with armed gunmen taking over the parliament building in Crimea and then raising the Russian flag on top of the building. (Via Kyiv Post)
The majority of Crimea's population is Russian, and it was one of the last strongholds of support for ex-President Viktor Yanukovych before he was ousted last week. Protesters were angry Yanukovych spurned a deal with the European Union in November in favor of a bailout from Russia.
Russia also conducted massive military exercises this week along the Ukrainian border in what many see as a show of force involving 150,000 troops and putting 90 fighter jets on combat alert. (Via Euronews)
So why is Crimea seen as so key, much less Ukraine? As one Businessweek writer put it, "It’s as poor as Paraguay and as corrupt as Iran."
To give you some perspective, Crimea is a peninsula in the southeast corner of Ukraine, it borders Russia and Russia still has a naval base in Sevastopol. Crimea is seen as key for access to the Black Sea, and therefore, the Mediterranean. (Via CNN)
JOHN BOLTON: "It's the former breadbasket of the Soviet Union. ... Russia wants to bring all of the former republics of the Soviet Union back under its hegemony, and if Putin can do that in Ukraine, it's a signal to all the rest." (Via Fox News)
After disappearing late last week as violent protests unseated him from power, Russian media report Yanukovych has resurfaced near Moscow — asking and receiving protection from Russia.
Friday morning, Yanukovych made his first public appearance talking to seemingly hundreds of reporters at a press conference. He has claimed he's still the acting president in Ukraine. (Via RT)
Reports began surfacing Friday morning Swiss and Austrian authorities froze Yanukovych's assets as they investigate possible money laundering by the deposed president and his son. (Via The Globe And Mail)