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Ukraine Abandons Its Military Bases in Crimea
Mar 21, 2014

Ukraine is preparing to pull its remaining military personnel and their families from the breakaway region of Crimea, effectively conceding defeat after Russia said it would annex the strategic peninsula. Tension in Crimea mounted as Russia's parliament moved to complete legislation to formally absorb the region, despite Western sanctions against a short list of Russian advisers and Crimean officials behind the secession push.

The announcement in Kiev of a possible evacuation from Crimea came after pro-Russian forces on 19 March took over Ukraine's naval headquarters in Sevastopol and detained the base's commander. Ukraine is working on a plan to quickly and effectively move not only the military personnel, but first of all their family members, to continental Ukraine. 25,000 accomodation had been reserved for such transfers altogether. There are 15,000 of Ukrainian troops on the Crimean peninsula, and over 20,000 from Russia.

Ukraine also had sent an appeal to the United Nations for Crimea to be declared a demilitarized zone to prevent the conflict from escalating. It appears unlikely that Russia, which bases its Black Sea Fleet there, would agree to such a proposal.

The situation around the Ukrainian bases has grown fraught in the two weeks since Russian troops and local self-defence forces took over the peninsula. The Russians have demanded the Ukrainian troops either switch allegiance or abandon their posts.

The confrontation at the naval headquarters started when members of a pro-Russian self-defence force cut down a fence and made their way inside the base.

On 18 March, a Ukrainian soldier and a member of a pro-Russian self-defence force were killed in Simferopol, the capital of Crimea, in the first fatal clash between the two sides.


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