Ukraine Orders Troop Pullout from Crimea

Monday, 24 Mar 2014 07:20 AM

 

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Ukraine's fledgling government ordered troops to withdraw from Crimea on Monday, ending days of wavering as Russian troops consolidate control over the peninsula.

Russian forces have been systematically seizing Ukrainian ships and military installations in Crimea, including a naval base near the eastern Crimean port of Feodosia, where two wounded servicemen were taken captive on Monday and as many as 80 were detained on-site, Ukrainian officials said.

With the storming of at least three military facilities over the past three days alone, it wasn't clear how many Ukrainian troops remained on the peninsula. Acting President Oleksandr Turchnynov said the Defense Ministry was instructed to redeploy all servicemen in Crimea to Ukraine's mainland, in remarks confirmed by his office.

The situation in Ukraine is set to dominate U.S. President Barack Obama's agenda as he begins a week of international travel in the Netherlands, where is set to attend a nuclear security summit. The two-day summit has been expected to be the focus of Obama's visit, but the event will now be overshadowed by hurriedly scheduled talks on Ukraine among the Group of Seven industrialized economies — the U.S., Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.

Speaking to leading lawmakers in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, Turchnynov said Ukrainian troops would be evacuated with their families amid unspecified threats from what he termed occupying Russian forces.

Over the weekend, Russian forces stormed the Belbek air force base near Sevastopol and detained the commander.

The interim government in Kiev has been criticized for its indecision over Ukrainian troops in Crimea.

Russia completed its annexation of Crimea last week, after its troops took control over the Ukrainian region following the ouster of a Kremlin-friendly government in Kiev.

Moscow says its absorption of Crimea has been rendered legitimate by a referendum held earlier this month in which the bulk of voters in the peninsula approved the move, but the process has come under sustained criticism from the international community.

The West has leveled a raft of sanctions against Russia for its moves in Crimea that have been hailed by some, but criticized as not going far enough by others.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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