Ukraine's ex-cop reveals details of his participation in Crimea takeover

14:10, 25 April 2016
Ukraine
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A former employee of the Interior Ministry of Ukraine Volodymyr Mertsalov, who defected to the Russian forces during the occupation of Crimea, has revealed details of the seizure of the peninsula in an interview with Novaya Gazeta.

REUTERS

Mertsalov said he had taken the lead of "militia" and stormed the airport in Simferopol along with the Russian military.

"On February 27, my team captured the Simferopol airport. When we cordoned off the airport, a man ran up to me. As I learned later, it was Igor Strelkov: ‘Volodya, hold on for a bit more. The reinforcement is coming from Sevastopol,’ he told me. I remained visually calm, but I was thinking that nobody but bikers could come there," Mertsalov said.

According to him, in half an hour, ten trucks arrived at the airport with no registration plates, but Mertsalov understood that it was the Russian military contingent.

Read alsoUkraine's Defense Minister: 40% of ministry's officials fail polygraph tests"Heavily armed soldiers with modern weapons – all these rifle scopes – jumped out of the trucks. I went to their commander, a Lieutenant Colonel, and introduced myself… And then I began to cry. At first, I thought that they were the GRU [Russian military intel] officers, but later I found out that they were paratroopers. Later, they helped us seize the State Council and the Council of Ministers," he said.

In the morning, when the foreign TV channels showed footage of "little green men," Mertsalov denied interaction with a group of Russian troops.

Read alsoRussia classifies Dzhemilev's case against FSB – lawyer"I was asked whether they were Russian troops. I answered: ‘I don't know. I'm not an expert. They didn't have insignia. And the fact that they had Kalashnikov assault rifles – well, half of the world uses them.’ In general, I had to play fool...," he said.

In addition, Mertsalov headed the negotiating team with the Ukrainian military. It also included former deputy chairman of the Council of Ministers Olga Kovitidi, who is now a delegate to the Council of Federation.

"It was easy for us to convince the Ukrainian commanders," he said but admitted that the exception was a military base of the 1st separate battalion of marines of the Ukrainian Navy in Feodosia, which they actually had to seize [forcibly].

Read alsoRussian Ombudswoman confirms Sentsov, Kolchenko "Ukrainian citizens""I stormed it as part of Russian paratroopers; there were APCs driving into the base. But everything was understood here – the officers were trained in the U.S. This is not a fiction for the sake of propaganda – everyone who was in any way related to the military service in Crimea knew about this. All contracted soldiers were the locals, so we didn't hurt them. But we messed up the commanders. Later I gathered them in the port – about 12 people. We released all of them on orders from the center," he said.

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