Feb. 27 - The parliament building in Ukraine's Crimea is seized by armed men described by witnesses as ethnic Russian separatists, in a direct challenge to Ukraine's new leaders. Mana Rabiee reports.
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Pro-Russian demonstrators in Ukraine's eastern region of Crimea clashed with police on Thursday.
It happened outside the regional parliament in the provincial capital, Simferopol.
The building was seized by armed men in the early hours of Thursday.
Witnesses said the men appeared to be ethnic Russian separatists.
A Russian flag was raised over the parliament, a direct challenge to Ukraine's new leaders in the capital Kiev.
Pro-Russian Crimeans protesting outside the building said they want a return to a 1994 constitution that claimed greater independence from Kiev.
(SOUNDBITE) (Russian) DEMONSTRATOR, NIKITA MIESHKOV, SAYING:
"I was born here and I can say that I am not necessarily Ukrainian, I am in fact a Crimean."
(SOUNDBITE) (Russian) DEMONSTRATOR, LUDMILA MILODANOVA, SAYING:
"We cannot accept the authority in Kiev, we are a different people, you understand? And we are supporting our homeland. We want to either have the constitution from 1994 reinstated or we will be happy to join Russia, if they will take us. With pleasure, it is our motherland, we are Russian people."
Crimea was gifted to Ukraine in the 1950's by then-Soviet Russia.
Part of Russia's black sea fleet is in Crimea.
On Thursday, Moscow put fighter jets in the area on combat alert.
But Kiev's new rulers warned Russia against signs of military aggression and NATO urged Moscow not to escalate tensions.
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