SEVASTOPOL, Ukraine — Russia on Saturday was reported to be reinforcing its military presence in Crimea as Moscow's foreign minister ruled out any dialogue with Ukraine's new authorities, whom he dismissed as puppets.
Vladislav Seleznyov, a Crimean-based spokesman for the Ukrainian armed forces, told The Associated Press that witnesses had reported seeing amphibious military ships unloading around 200 military vehicles in eastern Crimea on Friday night after apparently having crossed the Straits of Kerch, which separates Crimea from Russian territory.
He also said a convoy of more than 60 military trucks bearing no license plate numbers was headed from the eastern city of Feodosia toward the city of Simferopol, the regional capital.
The amphibious operation appeared to be one of the largest movements of Russian military forces since they appeared in Crimea a week ago.
Selenyov said AP: "Neither the equipment nor the paratroopers have insignia that identify them as Russian, but we have no doubt as to their allegiance."
An AP reporter sighted the convoy Saturday afternoon 25 miles west of Fedosia. In the backs of the vehicles, heavily armed soldiers could be seen, though none appeared to have identifying badges or insignia. Soldiers spat at reporters following the convoy.
The Ukrainian military spokesman also said that in Simferopol, several dozen armed men on Saturday broke into a military warehouse containing Ukrainian military goods.
The regional parliament in Crimea has set a March 16 referendum on leaving Ukraine to join Russia, and senior lawmakers in Moscow said they would support the move, ignoring sanctions threats and warnings from U.S. President Barack Obama that the vote would violate international law.