Armed men, thought to be Russian, drove a truck into a Ukrainian missile-defence post in the Crimea region on Friday but a standoff was resolved without a shot being fired, according to witnesses.
There were small signs that an attack had taken place after initial reports said the vehicle had smashed through the gates of the base and that it was being stormed.
Later, the Ukrainian base commader Lt Col Vitaly Onyschchenko said: “They intruded from both sides, the army territory base is big. One truck came from the side of the checkpoint and another one came from the munitions gate. It was a group of around 35-60 people.”
Speaking on Ukranian television, Crimea’s pro-Russia premier, Sergei Aksynovov described the armed men as “self-defence units” and said they were surrounded by journalists; and were making no attempts to attack.
But one group of armed men did block a unarmed military delegation from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) from entering Crimea on a fact-finding mission for a second day in a row.
It remains unclear who the units are but at least one member was seeing wearing the “Berkut” insignia – the emblem of the now disbanded Ukrainian riot police.
According to Washington, Russia now has some 30,000 soldiers in Crimea. In response, Ukraine is increasing exercises for its troops.