Russia has denied that Moscow had any hand in the takeover of the local parliament building in Simferopol, the Crimean regional capital on Thursday. Gunmen with rocket-propelled grenades and sniper rifles erected a sign reading “Crimea is Russia” and raised the Russian flag over the building. The gunmen wore black and orange ribbons, a Russian symbol of victory in World War II.
Later there were reports that similar gunmen had taken control of the airport of Crimea’s capital Simferopol. But the AFP news agency reported early on Friday that the airport was open, although a number of armed men in uniform were standing behind the exterior security fence.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Moscow “will respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine” but voiced concerns about the situation in Crimea, according to US Secretary of State John Kerry. After meeting with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Washington, Kerry said he had spoken by telephone with Lavrov on Thursday.