SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine — Russian troops took control of the two main airports in the strategic peninsula of Crimea, Ukraine's interior minister charged Friday, as the country asked the U.N. Security Council to intervene in the escalating conflict. Russian state media said Russian forces in Crimea denied involvement.
Meanwhile, fugitive Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych on Friday pledged to fight for his country's future, in his first public appearance since disappearing from Ukraine.
No violence was reported at the civilian airport in Crimea's capital, Simferopol, or at the military airport in the Black Sea port of Sevastopol, also part of Crimea. At the Simferopol airport, a man claiming to speak for the camouflage-clad forces patrolling the airport described them as Crimean militiamen.
Ukraine's State Border Guard Service said about 30 Russian paratroopers from the 810th brigade of Russia's Black Sea Fleet had taken up position outside the Ukrainian Coast Guard base in the Sevastopol area. It said the paratroopers said they were there to prevent any weapons at the base from being seized by extremists.
Russia's defense ministry had no comment.
In the southern Russian city Rostov-on-Don, Yanukovych held at a news conference, his first public appearance since Sunday. "I intend to keep fighting for the future of Ukraine against those who are using fear and terror to seize the country," he said.
Yanukovych also insisted he "did not flee anywhere" but left for Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine.
Yanukovych lambasted the West, accusing the countries of betraying a Feb. 21 agreement between the Ukrainian government and the opposition, saying that recent actions by the opposition run counter to the EU-brokered agreement.