Ukraine ‚preparing withdrawal of troops from Crimea‘

Ukraine is drawing up plans to withdraw its soldiers and their families from Crimea, Kiev’s security chief says.

Andriy Parubiy said they wanted to move them „quickly and efficiently“ to mainland Ukraine.

Earlier, pro-Russian forces seized two naval bases – including Ukraine navy’s HQ – in Crimea. Kiev says its navy chief has been detained.

It comes a day after Crimean leaders signed a treaty with Moscow absorbing the peninsula into Russia.

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US President Barack Obama

A referendum in Crimea on Sunday, approving its split from Ukraine, came nearly a month after Kiev’s pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych was replaced by Western-leaning interim authorities.

Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has called the crisis in Crimea „the gravest threat to European security and stability since the end of the Cold War“ There were charged exchanges in a session of the UN Security Council, during which US envoy Samantha Power said her Russian counterpart Vitaly Churkin „showed more imagination than Tolstoy or Chekhov“. There There were charged exchanges in a session of the UN Security Council, during which US envoy Samantha Power said her Russian counterpart Vitaly Churkin „showed more imagination than Tolstoy or Chekhov“.

„Russia it seems has re-written its borders but it cannot rewrite the facts,“ said Ms Power, who was then accused by Mr Churkin of dropping „to the level of the tabloid press“.

‚Demilitarised zone‘
Mr Parubiy, in a news conference, set out more details on Kiev’s position in light of the events in Crimea.

The White House, Washington

The White House, Washington

He said arrangements were now being set up to introduce visas for Russian nationals travelling to Ukraine.

And he said Kiev was seeking UN support to „proclaim Crimea a demilitarised zone“, which would involve the withdrawal of Russian troops and the „relocation of Ukrainian troops to continental Ukraine as well as facilitate evacuation of all the civilian population who are unwilling to remain on the occupied territory“.

Ukraine is also leaving the Moscow-led Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) alliance, and is preparing for military exercises with the US and the UK, Mr Parubiy added.

With reference to plans to withdraw troops and their families, Ukraine’s interim Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsya told the BBC that they would not be forced to leave if they did not want to.

President Vladimir Putin, Russia

President Vladimir Putin, Russia

But he said: „The situation is unpredictable and uncontrolled sometimes, so that’s why there is a danger also for the civilians“.

Meanwhile, a deadline of 21:00 local time (19:00 GMT) set by Ukraine’s interim President Olexander Turchynov for the release of navy chief Serhiy Hayduk has passed.

Shortly afterwards, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu called on the Crimean authorities to release him.

A defence ministry statement said Commander Hayduk had been obliged to carry out orders in accordance with Ukrainian military regulations.

Mr Turchynov earlier said that unless Serhiy Hayduk and „all the other hostages – both military and civilian ones – were released, the authorities would carry out an adequate response… of a technical and technological nature“.

It is not clear exactly what he means, but it could involve the electricity or water that Ukraine supplies to Crimea, the BBC’s David Stern in Kiev suggests.

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