(Adds Ukrainian official on other troop movements, background)
SEVASTOPOL, Ukraine, March 14 A Russian warship
unloaded trucks, troops and at least one armoured personnel
carrier at a bay near Sevastopol in Crimea on Friday morning, as
Moscow continued to build up its forces on the Ukrainian
A Reuters journalist saw trucks driving off the Yamal 156, a
large landing ship, at Kazachaya Bay near Sevastopol. One
flatbed truck was carrying an armoured personnel carrier (APC).
The vehicles drove off a landing ramp on to a low shoreline
of open ground near an oil storage terminal from the ship, which
is capable of carrying over 300 troops and up to a dozen APCs.
On Monday, a Reuters journalist saw a column of at least 100
Russian vehicles, including trucks, APCs and artillery on a road
in the same area. It is Ukrainian territory, some 15 km (10
miles) from the port at Sevastopol which Moscow leases from Kiev
to station its Black Sea Fleet.
Crimea's pro-Russian authorities have denied there are any
Russian troops on the peninsula outside the Sevastopol base,
even though masked gunmen surrounding Ukrainian military
installations drive vehicles with Russian licence plates and
identify themselves to Ukrainian soldiers as Russian troops.
Ukraine's border guards said they captured a Russian soldier
driving to the mainland from Crimea on Friday with a uniform,
military papers and rifle in his car. The man said he was lost.
Crimeans vote on Sunday whether to become part of Russia or
to choose greater autonomy within Ukraine, a step that
pro-Moscow officials say is a stepping stone to joining Russia.
Ukrainian officials and analysts estimate that some 20,000
Russian troops are in Crimea, of whom fewer than 12,000 are
attached to the Black Sea Fleet, with the remainder comprising
infantry and paratroopers brought from Russia. Under the terms
of the lease for the fleet, Moscow can station up to 25,000
troops in Sevastopol, but not on other Ukrainian territory.
A Ukrainian defence ministry official in Crimea said on
Friday that witnesses in Kerch, a port at the eastern end of the
peninsula, saw Russian armoured vehicles landed. Vladislav
Seleznyov wrote on Facebook that a train carrying 14 S-300
surface-to-air missile launchers was at the railway station.
He said another source reported a column of about 100
vehicles, including trucks and armoured personnel carriers, was
heading from the northern town of Dzhankoi toward Perekop, on an
isthmus leading to mainland Ukraine.
(Additional reportng by Pavel Polityuk in Kiev; Writing by
Andrew Osborn and Alastair Macdonald)