Ukraine Withdraws Military From Crimea

Interim president orders withdrawal after Russia annexes and conquers nearly all bases in peninsula; concerns of continued aggression.

Ari Yashar ,

Ukrainian army (file)
Ukrainian army (file)

Ukraine's interim President Olexander Turchynov ordered a withdrawal of all the country's troops from the Crimean Peninsula, following Russia's armed occupation of the formerly Ukrainian-held territory.

"The National Security and Defense Council has reached a decision, under instructions from the defense ministry, to conduct a redeployment of military units stationed in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea," announced Turchynov, adding that soldiers' families would likewise be withdrawn from the area.

The president noted that the move was taken due to Russian threats to the lives of military personnel and their families, reports BBC. The Russian army has seized nearly all of Ukraine's bases in Crimea.

One of the last remaining Ukrainian air bases was captured by Russian troops on Saturday, with one Ukrainian soldier killed in the process.

Russia similarly captured the Feodosia naval base. Ukrainian Defense spokesman Vladislav Seleznyov said Russians attacked the base from two directions, lobbing stun grenades from armored personnel carriers (APCs).

Crimea's public voted by a 93% majority last Sunday to become part of Russia, in a referendum that the Ukraine and western countries said was coerced, given Russia's military occupation of the region since March 1.

Russian President Vladimir Putin completed drafting a bill to annex Crimea last Friday, thumbing his nose at EU and US sanctions, and even drafting his own sanctions on top US senators.

In response to the spiraling situation in Crimea, which has Ukraine and Russia set on the verge of war, US President Barack Obama has come in for sharp criticism from former presidential candidate Mitt Romney over his "naive" dealing with the invasion.

The G7 group of industrialized world powers has scheduled a discussion at The Hague to consider a collective response to the situation.