A man reads a declaration at a swearing in ceremony after they volunteered for a militia in support of the pro Russian administration of Crimea led by Sergey Aksyonov who was made Prime Minister of the region while pro Russia militia occupied the regional parliament. The new Crimean parliament is strongly in favour of closer ties, and possibly unit with, Russia.
Following the fall of President Yanukovych in Kiev, militia wearing uniforms without insignia quickly moved to take control of vital installationd and Ukrainian army and naval bases. Russia maintains that it has the right to protect ethnically Russian people in Crimea and other parts of Eastern Ukraine.
Since the end of February, people in parts of eastern and southern Ukraine, including Crimea, have voiced their opposition to the interim government in Kiev and Crimea has appointed a pro-Russian premier. Pro-Russian troops wearing no insignia have occupied strategic installations and barricaded the Ukrainian Army in its barracks while road blocks have been set up to control traffic in and out of Crimea. On 16 March referendum will take place to decide whether Crimea is to join Russia. Western governments and Kiev have deemed the referendum illegal and the US has warned of serious consequences if Crimea seceded from Ukraine. Protests against the government of President Viktor Yanukovych were sparked on 21 November 2013 by the Ukrainian government's decision to suspend preparations for the signing of an association agreement with the European Union that would have increased trade with the EU. Some believe that the U-turn came about as a result of pressure from President Putin of Russia who wants Ukraine to join a customs union with itself, Kazakhstan and Belarus. On 18 February, after Yanukovych's party scuppered a move to change the constitution to reduce the powers of the president, renewed fighting between protesters and police broke out and had cost the lives of over 80 people by Friday 21st February.