The self-defense forces guarding the borders of the Ukrainian autonomous republic of Crimea have prevented a large amount of firearms and explosives from being smuggled into the republic by Kiev radicals.
The Cossacks and Berkut troops at the road checkpoint in the Crimean peninsula have confiscated explosives equivalent to 400 kilograms of TNT as well as grenades, rifles and guns, Russia-1 TV channel reports.
The blasting agent was transported in a single batch by a truck, with the local self-defense forces currently investigating the origins and the purpose of the load. They told told RIA-Novosti news agency that the driver and the passenger of the truck were Maidan activists.
“They are citizens of Lvov [in western Ukraine], Maksim Shepetaylo – born in 1990 and Vasily Pusko – born in 1989. They didn’t hide the fact that since December last year that active participated in Maidan clashes [in Kiev],” the source said.
One of the Berkut soldiers, who like many of his comrades refused to follow the order to disband from the self-proclaimed government in the Ukrainian capital, told Russia-1 TV that the majority of the arms were seized from vehicles with Kiev numbers.
The weapons have been confiscated, despite many of their owners providing documents, which prove that they are state officials or law enforcement officers, he said.
The self-defense forces have demonstrated to journalists a loaded Kalashnikov rifle, with the available evidence suggesting that shots were recently fired from it.
They also showed a small-caliber sniper rifle of foreign design, saying that the weapons of such type have been frequently used by radicals against the police during the Maidan standoff in Kiev.
Sky News also visited a Crimean checkpoint, reporting a stockpile of weapons – including shotguns, hunting rifles, axes and ammunition – which the self-defense forces said were seized from cars trying to enter Crimea.
The checkpoints are installed to make “sure that everything is in order here at the entrance to Crimea, that no-one is smuggling anything that could turn our land into another Maidan,” one of the guards explained.
The newly appointed head of the Ukrainian Navy, Rear Admiral Denis Berezovsky, as well as a number of other high ranking Ukrainian military and security officials in Crimea, have sworn their allegiance to the local authorities.
The people of Crimea began protesting after the self-proclaimed government in Kiev introduced a law abolishing the use of other languages for official documents in Ukraine.
More than half of the Autonomous Republic’s population are ethnic Russians who aren’t fluent in Ukrainian and only use Russian language for communication.
Crimea has longstanding close ethnic, cultural and military links with Russia, as part of Imperial Russia since the 18th century and then the Soviet Union in the 20th century.
The peninsula’s residents have announced that they are going to hold a referendum on March 30 to determine the region’s future.