Hours after pro-Russian forces seized Ukrainian naval units in Crimea, the Ukrainian government stated that it has drawn up plans for the evacuation of all military personnel and their families. The Ukrainian government is preparing for the relocation of up to 25,000 Crimean Ukrainians to the mainland.
Ukrainian bases in Crimea have been surrounded by Crimean and Russian forces for weeks. No decisive orders have come from the Ukrainian government to the soldiers at the bases. Wednesday, two separate naval units were stormed as vehicles crashed their gates and armed soldiers moved in. The Ukrainian forces did not fire on the Russia and Crimean forces, and no deaths resulted.
Russian forces moved into Ukraine late last month, shortly following the ouster of former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. Crimea, which is predominantly Russian, voted in a referendum March 16 to cede from Ukraine and join Russia. All nations except Russia view the ballot as invalid and condemn the Russian and Crimean governments for an illegal annexation of the peninsula.
Simultaneous to the statement by the Ukrainian defense secretary that Ukraine had drawn plans for withdrawal, the Ukrainian government also announced a three-hour ultimatum to Crimean forces, which the Ukrainian government wants to release a captured navy officer. The officer was captured in Wednesday’s base sieges.
By Day Blakely Donaldson