TODAY   |  March 19, 2014

Pro-Russian troops seize Ukrainian naval base

Crimea’s self-defense forces have stormed the Ukrainian navy headquarters in Sevastopol. Today’s move comes after Russia signed a treaty with authorities to annex the region. NBC chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel reports.

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>>> ukraine this morning.

>> that's right. troubling new developments. crimea 's south defense forces have stormed the ukrainian navy forces. today's move comes a day after russia signed a treaty with local authorities to annex the region. richard, good morning.

>> reporter: good morning, natalie. there are still hundreds of ukrainian troops trapped inside their bases in crimea . and today, russian forces moved to drive them out. pro russian forces took over the main naval headquarters in crimea today putting muscle behind russia 's first expansion in decades. in the czar's former palace last night, president vladimir putin officially annexed crimea and got standing ovation. he said crimea has always been an inseparable part of russia . but in ukraine today, there's indignation and fear that russia will take eastern ukraine next.

>> such circumstances like work in crimea , here, it will start --

>> secretary of state kerry said the situation is similar to the days leading up to the second world war and in the strongest possible term warned russia against invading mainland ukraine .

>> as egregious as any step i can think of that can be taken by a country in today's world.

>> vice president biden has been touring eastern europe . and today, the baltic to assure allies that washington remains fully committed to their protection.

>> richard engel , thank you, richard.