Russian troops mill about near a Ukrainian military base in Simferopol on March 18.
© Anastasia Vlasova
Blood was spilt on Tuesday as a Ukrainian officer was shot and killed during an assault on a military facility in Simferopol by Russian troops and pro-Russian self-defense units, Ukraine's defense ministry reported.
The death was the first military casualty since Russian troops invaded Crimea on Feb. 27, effectively seizing the entire peninsula.
"The serviceman has been killed during an assault by Russian military on the photogrammetric information center of the Ukrainian Armed Forces in Simferopol," Vladyslav Selezniov, head of communications for Ukraine's defense ministry in Crimea, wrote on his Facebook page. Interfax and Reuters also reported and verified the incident.
One self-defense fighter was also killed and at least two people injured as a result of the shooting near Kubanska Street in Simferopol, according to the newly created Crimean news agency Kriminform, citing a source within the Crimean Interior Ministry.
"The shooting was carried out from the same spot in two directions: against the self-defense fighters who were checking a warning about the presence of armed people in an uncompleted building, and in the direction of Ukrainian military base located nearby," the source said, according to Interfax.
The incident comes on the heels of Russian President Vladimir Putin signing a treaty in Moscow today to annex Crimea.
Interim Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk said as the shootings were reported that the conflict was now entering a new phase.
“Now the conflict is essentially moving from a political phase to a military phase thanks to the Russian soldiers,” Yatsenyuk added.
Russia now considers Crimea to be part of Russia, according to a Kremlin statement. Steps still must be taken to formally annex the peninsula, including Russia's parliament ratifying the agreement signed by Putin and Crimean leaders on March 18.