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One of last Ukrainian military bases in Crimea falls; commander's whereabouts unknown (UPDATE)

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March 24, 2014, 1:50 p.m. | Ukraine — by Lily Hyde

Victorious Russian soldiers move in on one of the Ukrainian military's last holdout bases, a marine camp in Fedosia, during a March 24 raid.
© Lily Hyde

FEODOSIA, Crimea -- It started at about 4:15 a.m. on March 24, with dull explosions echoing over Feodosia. Russian soldiers and Russian-backed Crimean self-defense forces threw stun grenades into the territory of the Ukrainian 1st Separate Marine Battalion.

Two helicopters circled and hovered.  There was machine-gun fire from the Russian side, and fists from the Ukrainian side. But the base was quickly taken by three Russian armored personnel carriers full of special-force troops. By then, there were 60-80 Ukrainian marine holdouts left at the base, out of a full complement of 300 marines.

However, the marines say their commander, Dmitry Delyatitsky, was taken from the base in a helicopter this morning and hiswhereabouts are still unknown.    

By 5.30 a.m., the Russian flag was flying.

Smoke poured from a small fire on the front of the barracks. 

Russians deployed female soldiers as part of the raid on Ukraine's marine base in Feodosia on March 24.

More armored personnel carriers continued to block the entrance, belching out smoke and guarded by a row of Russian troops and a small local Cossack brigade.     

By 6 a.m., it was all over. The Ukrainians, up to 80 of them, were taken away and returned later in the day. It was unclear whether Russians were still holding any of the Ukrainian commanders who organized one of the last holdouts on teh Crimean peninsula.

The three Russian armored personnel carriers drove back out of the base, masked soldiers sitting on top to wave to locals who had gathered to applaud "nashi" – "ours."

Ten minutes later, three Russian army lorries, their canvas backs laced closed, drove away from the base towards an unknown destination. 

Pale faces of Ukrainians peered out of a gap in the back of one.

 “There go the Ukrainians,” said one woman in her 40s, who had been awaken in her house opposite by the noise and come out to watch. “Thank God it’s all over now. They shouldn’t have been here, this is Russian territory.” 

The same sentiment was echoed by everyone there.

“Now we have can peace again,” said a woman called Valya, who had taken a detour on her way to work to see what was happening. “With the Russians, everything is peaceful – we’re all Russian here. Those Ukrainians had a deadline to leave by March 22. They didn’t leave, so of course they had to be forced out by our soldiers.”

More armored personnel carriers that had been under camouflage nets in the field next to the base were moved into the base over the next hour, as were more soldiers. 

Locals began to wander away. A woman from the local female Kremlin-backed self-defense brigade, who had been guarding the entrance in a bullet-proof vest, brought out a tray with dainty glasses of tea for the brigade.  

Kyiv Post staff writer Lily Hyde can be reached at lily@lilyhyde.com

Editor’s Note: This article has been produced with support from the project www.mymedia.org.ua, financially supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, and implemented by a joint venture between NIRAS and BBC Media Action.The content in this article may not necessarily reflect the views of the Danish government, NIRAS and BBC Action Media.

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