Interim Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov ordered the withdrawal of armed forces from Crimea Monday, citing Russian threats to the lives of military staff and their families.
Russian troops have seized most of Ukraine’s bases in the peninsula, including a naval base at Feodosia on Monday. Russia annexed Crimea last week after a controversial referendum that Ukraine and the West say was illegal.
“The acting President of Ukraine has given an order to the Ukraine Defense Ministry for the withdrawal of all Ukrainian forces from Crimea,” a spokeswoman for Turchynov told CNN. The soldiers’ families will be evacuated as well.
Earlier, Russian troops stormed and seized the Ukrainian naval base in Feodosia, a port in Crimea, a Ukrainian Defense Ministry spokesman said. Witnesses said several Mi-24 and Mi-8 helicopters were involved in the raid. Between 60 and 80 Ukrainian troops were captured and taken from the base, said Vladislav Seleznev, a Ukrainian Defense Ministry spokesman in Crimea.
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Ukrainians had said they would leave the base if they were allowed to take their weapons with them.
Russian forces consolidated their control of the Black Sea peninsula over the weekend.
On Saturday, six Russian special forces armored personnel carriers broke through the gates of Belbek air base, firing warning shots into the air. In separate incidents, pro-Russian self-defense forces stormed the Novofederoskoe military base as well as a Ukrainian ship, the Slavutych.
On a trip to Crimea Monday, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu appointed Rear Adm. Denis Berezovsky deputy commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, Russia’s ITAR-Tass reported. That fleet is based in the Crimean city of Sevastopol, making it strategically important to Moscow.
Shoigu also met with former Ukrainian military personnel, who are now willing to serve in the Russian army, state news agency RIA-Novosti reported.