Russians and Militias Seize Ukrainian Naval Headquarters

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A day after President Vladimir V. Putin declared that Russia was annexing Crimea. Russian forces and local militiamen seized control of the headquarters of the Ukrainian Navy.

Ukrainian servicemen filed out of navy headquarters in Sevastopol on March 19 with tears in their eyes after the base was seized by pro-Moscow militants, Russian troops and Cossack forces. The assault began when some 200 unarmed militants — some of them in balaclavas — sawed through a fence and overran the base while the Ukrainian servicemen barricaded themselves inside.

At the same time, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. issued an outright warning to Moscow. Biden declared Wednesday the United States will respond to any aggression against its NATO allies, as Russia’s neighbors looked warily to the escalating crisis in nearby Ukraine.

Standing side by side with a pair of Baltic leaders in Vilnius, Lithuania, Biden  said the U.S. was “absolutely committed” to defending its allies, adding that President Barack Obama plans to seek concrete commitments from NATO members to ensure the alliance can safeguard its collective security.

In a jab at Russia, he said the U.S. stands resolutely with Baltic states in support of the Ukrainian people against Russian aggression.

“Russia cannot escape the fact that the world is changing and rejecting outright their behavior,”  Biden  said, after meeting in Vilnius with Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite and Latvian President Andris Berzins.

Biden’s comments came at the close of a two-day trip to Lithuania and Poland with a two-pronged theme: Sending a stern message to Russian President Vladimir Putin that the U.S. won’t abide Russian intervention in Ukraine, and reassuring fretful NATO allies that the U.S. and others will come to their defense if necessary.

This report contains information compiled from Associated Press