Arsen Avakov, who was named interior minister on Thursday, said that the international airport in Sebastopol had been blocked by Russian forces. Sebastopol has for the past 230 years been home to Russia's Black Sea fleet -- a key strategic hub for Moscow, as ships and submarines based there are just north of Turkey and can reach the Mediterranean to influence the Middle East and the Balkans.


A day earlier, pro-Russian gunmen had seized control of Crimea's regional parliament and government building, and Crimea's regional assembly voted to hold a referendum on May 25 to expand the region's autonomy from Kiev and replaced the local government with a pro-Moscow official.

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