Crimea airport seized to stop 'provocateurs': deputy PM

Cossack guards stand in front of Crimea's regional parliament building in Simferopol on March 12, 2014. AFP PHOTO/ Filippo MONTEFORTE

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine: Pro-Moscow authorities in Crimea have seized control of the peninsula's main airport and limited flights until Monday to prevent the arrival of "provocateurs", a top regional official said.

Deputy premier Rustam Temirgaliyev told journalists flights would return to normal after Sunday's referendum on the flashpoint southern Ukrainian region becoming part of Russia.

"Our self-defence forces have taken control of the airport. We must limit movement, but this is temporary to prevent the arrival of provocateurs," he said on Wednesday.

"Air links will be re-established on March 17."

Flights from Kiev and Istanbul into and out of the regional capital Simferopol were suspended on Tuesday, with one plane from Kiev forced to turn around in mid-air after being denied clearance to land.

Flights to and from Moscow were operating normally however.

Sources at the airport said a gang of armed men burst into the air traffic control centre on Monday night and forced out local workers.

Pro-Moscow authorities who have seized power in the Black Sea peninsula have taken a number of steps in recent days to isolate the region from the rest of Ukraine and control entry points.





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