Ukrainian troops refuse to surrender to Russians

SEVASTAPOL, Ukraine - For almost a week, Ukrainian troops have barricaded themselves inside dozens of bases and military installations across Crimea and have refused to give themselves up to the Russians.

At Saki Air Base near the provincial capital, Simferopol, Ukrainian soldiers managed to fly four helicopters and two planes out from under the noses of the occupiers.

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Armed Ukrainian seamen stand on alert in case their vessel is assaulted by Russian troops, in Sevastopol, Ukraine, on Wednesday, March 5, 2014.
Ivan Sekretarev, AP
And at the very heart of Russia's massive naval base at Sevastapol, the home of its Black Sea fleet for more than 200 years, a handful of Ukrainian seamen are still holding out aboard two warships, the Ternopil and the Slavitych.

The sailors on the Ukrainian warships have hung their mattresses over the side of the vessels in case any Russians try to board the ship. They're still flying the Ukrainian flag, and have issued a statement saying they will not give in in any way to Russia.

The statement also called Vladimir Putin a bare-faced liar.

That's a reference to the Russian president's claim Tuesday that the armed men surrounding the Ukrainian bases aren't Russian soldiers, but what he called local defense forces.

Ukrainian Col. Yuri Manchur knows firsthand that's not true.

On Tuesday, he led his men up toward a Russian blockade in an attempt to retake an arms depot, but had to turn back when they started shooting.

On Wednesday, he said, the tension had eased.

The Russian troops are no longer surrounding his base, but they are still calling him occasionally on his cellphone, asking him to give up.

"By now, they realize our troops have remained loyal to their oath," Manchur said, "and to the Ukrainian people."

Also Wednesday, the U.N. special envoy was threatened and had to cut short his trip to Crimea.

Robert Serry was returning to his car after leaving the navy headquarters in Sevastapol when armed men forced a change of drivers. He refused to get in and took refuge in a cafe until he was given safe passage to the airport.

It's still not clear who wanted to sabotage his mission.

  • Elizabeth Palmer

    Elizabeth Palmer has been a CBS News correspondent since August 2000. She has been based in London since late 2003, after having been based in Moscow (2000-03). Palmer reports primarily for the "CBS Evening News."

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