Gunmen fired warning shots as international observers tried to enter Crimea for a third day and a Ukrainian border patrol plane came under fire that didn’t cause injuries. TV5 reported that a military agency in the regional capital Simferopol was captured and 70 unidentified trucks entered the city.
Ukraine is struggling to keep hold of Crimea, home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, after pro-Russian forces took control of it in the wake of Moscow-backed Viktor Yanukovych’s ouster as president. Western officials say they’re concerned that the situation in the peninsula, where the U.S. estimates there now are 20,000 Russian troops confronting a smaller Ukrainian military force, threatens to explode at any moment.
“Russia and Ukraine, right now, are one nervous 20-year-old soldier’s mistake away from something very, very bad happening that could spin out of control,” said Steven Pifer, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. There are about 12,000 Ukrainian troops in Crimea, he said.