|Russian flags waved as the Russian fleet enters Sevastopol, Ukraine.|
Thousands attend a protest in the port city of Sevastopol
to declare allegiance to Russia.
As a new regime consolidated its grip over power in Kiev on Sunday, calls for secession in the pro-Russian south of Ukraine were growing louder.
At a protest attended by thousands in the port city of Sevastopol on Ukraine's Crimean peninsula, the crowd voted to establish a parallel administration and civil defense squads.
Demonstrators waved Russian flags – there was not a Ukrainian flag to be seen – and chanted "Russia, Russia, Russia" during the gathering reports the Guardian.
"Sevastopol is a Russian town and will always be a Russian town… we will never surrender to those fascists in Kiev," said Anatoly, who was handing out Russian flags and declined to give his surname. "The struggle is only just beginning."
The largely Russian-speaking eastern and southern regions of Ukraine have been shaken by events in the Ukrainian capital over the last week that have led to the toppling of President Viktor Yanukovych.
|The Ukraine is split by language and culture.|
Nowhere in the country is a Russian heritage stronger than in Crimea. The peninsula was officially a part of Russia until 60 years ago when the Soviet leadership transferred it to Ukraine.
Even today the Kremlin retains significant influence in the popular holiday destination for wealthy Russians, and Moscow leases naval bases in Sevastopol for its Black Sea fleet.
"We are not like the Kievans, we will not give up," said Olga, a pensioner in the crowd on Sunday.
"We hoped there wouldn't be a split in the country, but if a fully Bandera regime emerges in Kiev then we will be a part of Russia," she added, using a controversial term for the opposition from the name of a nationalist leader who fought against both the Nazis and the Soviets during the Second World War.
Amid fears that the new leadership in Kiev will soon fire the local government, demonstrators elected a new city leader, Aleksei Chaly, who vowed to defend Sevastopol.
Protesters also voted to set-up self-defence squads – a fledgling militia that would mirror those established in pro-European Western Ukraine last week after Yanukovych's authority crumbled and locals ransacked police stations.
Speakers said that in a similar demonstration earlier in the day in the regional capital of Simferopol about 5,000 had joined such squads.
The response was likely to be much greater in Sevastopol where up to 200,000 people could be counted on, said Dmitry Sinichkin, president of the local branch of the Night Wolves motorbike group.
"Bloodshed is inevitable," added Sinichkin, who was dressed in black leather. The Night Wolves enjoy the patronage of Russian President Vladimir Putin and its leadership has close ties to the Russian Orthodox Church.
The recent deal between Russia and Ukraine saw a significant
discount on Russian gas in exchange for the extension on the lease
for the Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol.