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According to Ukraine’s Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, Russian military forces are blockading Sevastopol airport in the Ukrainian region of Crimea.

Arsen Avakov called their presence an “armed invasion”.

Armed men also took over the other main Crimean airport, Simferopol, on Friday morning.

Relations between Russia and the Ukraine have been strained since the ousting of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanokovych, who is now in Russia.

These tensions have been particularly evident in Crimea, Ukraine’s only Russian-majority region.

On Thursday, pro-Russian armed men stormed the Simferopol parliament, ousted the existing cabinet and appointed a new prime minister.

Meanwhile, in a further challenge to Kiev, Viktor Yanukovich is preparing to give a press conference on Friday, after resurfacing in Russia on Thursday, asserting that he is still Ukraine’s lawful president.

Armed men took over Simferopol airport in Crimea on Friday morning

Armed men took over Simferopol airport in Crimea on Friday morning

Armed men, said by Arsen Avakov to be Russian soldiers, arrived in the Sevastopol military airport near Russia’s Black Sea Fleet Base on Friday morning.

The men were patrolling outside, backed up by armored vehicles, but Ukrainian military and border guards remained inside, Arsen Avakov said.

“I consider what has happened to be an armed invasion and occupation in violation of all international agreements and norms,” Arsen Avakov said on his Facebook page.

Armed men also arrived at Simferopol airport overnight, some carrying Russian flags.

A man called Vladimir told Reuters he was a volunteer helping the group there, though he said he did not know where they came from.

“I’m with the People’s Militia of Crimea. We’re simple people, volunteers,” he said.

“We’re here at the airport to maintain order. We’ll meet the planes with a nice smile – the airport is working as normal.”

On Thursday, a separate group of unidentified armed men entered Crimea’s parliament building by force, and hoisted a Russian flag on the roof.

The Crimean parliament later announced it would hold a referendum on expanding the region’s autonomy on May 25.

Recent developments in the Crimea region – which traditionally leans towards Moscow – heightened tensions with Russia, which scrambled fighter jets to monitor its borders on Thursday.

Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, last night urged his government to maintain relations with Kiev and even join Western efforts to bail out its troubled economy – but he is also rewarding the rebellious Crimean government with humanitarian aid from Russia.

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Canada’s electronic spy agency, Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC), collected data from travelers passing through a major airport, the CBC reports.

The CSEC collected information captured from unsuspecting passengers’ wireless devices by the airport’s free Wi-Fi system over two-weeks, the report says.

The revelations come from documents leaked by Edward Snowden, CBC says.

The CSEC is prohibited by law from targeting Canadians or anyone in Canada without an appropriate warrant.

Its primary mission is to collect foreign intelligence by intercepting overseas phone and internet traffic.

The CSEC, in a statement to CBC, reiterated that it is “mandated to collect foreign signals to protect Canada and Canadians.

“And in order to fulfill that key foreign intelligence role for the country, CSEC is legally authorized to collect and analyze metadata.”

Canada's electronic spy agency collected data from travelers passing through a major airport

Canada’s electronic spy agency collected data from travelers passing through a major airport

Metadata is the information about a communication – such as the date and location of a call or email – rather than the details of what was actually said or written.

The leaked document indicates the 2012 passenger tracking operation was a trial run of a powerful new software program being developed jointly with the National Security Agency (NSA), CBC reports.

It is now fully operational, CBC News quotes sources as saying.

Experts told the broadcaster that information captured from travelers’ devices would have enabled the agency to track them for a week or more as they showed up in other Wi-Fi “hot spots” around Canada, such as other airports, hotels or restaurants.

Such was the volume of data that CSEC could even track the travelers’ movements back to the days before they arrived at the airport, the experts say.

The document does not specify which airport was targeted or explain how CSEC was able to access the data.

Two airports – Vancouver and Toronto – and Boingo, an independent supplier of Wi-Fi services at other Canadian airports, have denied any involvement in supplying Wi-Fi information.

Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden is currently living in Russia having fled the US in May 2013 after leaking thousands of documents that revealed extensive internet and phone surveillance by the US and other intelligence services.

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