The Ukrainian Parliament said Thursday that it won’t give up on Crimea, even as its military acknowledged it’s preparing to pull out of the breakaway region and Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty annexing the peninsula.
“Crimea was, is and will be part of Ukraine,” the parliament said in a statement, CNN reports. “The Ukrainian people will never, under no circumstances, stop fighting for the liberation of Crimea from the occupants, no matter how hard and long it is.”
Russian and pro-Russian forces took control of the peninsula in late February and have overwhelmed, mostly peacefully, Ukrainian forces in the region.
Ukraine’s naval commander, detained when armed men stormed the naval base in Sevastopol on Wednesday, was released during the night, according to a statement posted Thursday to the website of the presidency.
Acting Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov had set a 9 p.m. (3 p.m. EST) deadline on Wednesday for pro-Russian forces to release hostages and stop provocations, threatening action of “technical and technological character,” which was interpreted to mean shutting off utilities, according to CNN.
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry authorized its forces to open fire in self defense after a Ukrainian soldier was killed during a raid on their base outside the regional capital of Simferopol. But on Wednesday, a defense official said in a televised statement that Ukraine was prepared to evacuate its military personnel if the United Nations designates Crimea a “demilitarized zone.”
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