The Ukrainian government is making preparations to remove its troops from the disputed Crimean peninsula Wednesday, as Russia solidifies its grasp of the region.
“We are developing a plan that would enable us not only to withdraw servicemen, but also members of their families in Crimea, so that they could be quickly and efficiently moved to mainland Ukraine," Ukrainian defense secretary Andriy Parubiy said in a televised address Wednesday, reports Agence France Presse. Parubiy said Kiev will seek UN support for turning Crimea into a de-militarized zone as it moves its troops out of the area.
The move comes as tensions mount with pro-Russian forces taking control of at least two Ukrainian military outposts in Crimea. Crimean forces stormed a Ukrainian naval base in the port of Sevastopol on Wednesday, and Russian forces later taking over a second base in Novoozerne. On Tuesday, Ukraine’s interim prime minister blamed Russia for the killing of one Ukrainian soldier.
Ukraine’s acting president Oleksandr Turchynov Wednesday demanded pro-Russian Crimean separatist leaders release the head of the country’s Navy, and “all other hostages,” lest Ukrainian authorities be forced to “carry out an adequate response…of a technical and technological nature.” Ukraine's security chief also said the country was planning military exercises with the United States and the United Kingdom.
Later in the week Russia’s parliament is set to cast a final vote on whether or not to ratify the annexation of Crimea by Russia, a proposal all but certain to pass handily.