World News

Ukraine Evacuates Service Members in Crimea

Ukraine's interim government has ordered its troops to withdraw from Crimea, after Russian forces took control of three military installations over the past three days.

Ukraine said Monday it is pulling out its troops in response to the annexation of Crimea by Russia. Ukraine's acting president, Oleksandr Turchynov, said the defense ministry has been instructed to redeploy Ukrainian forces from the Black Sea peninsula. He said the move is a response to threats by Russian forces on the lives of Ukrainian service members and their families.

Earlier Monday, Russian forces seized a naval base near the eastern Crimean port of Feodosia, using stun grenades and automatic weapons. Ukraine's defense ministry said two service members were wounded and between 60 and 80 were detained.

Ukraine's new pro-Western government in Kyiv has been criticized for its indecision on Ukrainian troops in Crimea, who have been besieged by Russian forces for weeks.

In The Hague, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was set for another meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, to discuss Ukraine on the sidelines of an international nuclear energy summit.

Russia meanwhile announced it is barring entry to its borders for 13 Canadian lawmakers and officials, in response to Canadian sanctions on Russian officials linked to the annexation of Crimea.



On Saturday, heavily armed Russian troops fired shots and used armored vehicles to smash through the gates of Ukraine's Belbek air base. The Ukrainian forces inside the Crimean base offered no resistance. Russian forces also took control of a Ukrainian naval base at Novofedorovka.

Ukraine has remained highly unstable since November, when then-President Viktor Yanukovych backed off from signing a trade agreement with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia. The move led to weeks of anti-government protests in Kyiv that forced Mr. Yanukovych to flee the country last month.

Crimeans voted last week in a highly controversial ballot to secede from Ukraine and join the Russian federation, a move quickly embraced by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The United States and the European Union say the vote is illegal.

In Brussels Sunday, NATO's top commander warned that Russia has deployed a "sizeable" military force on its borders with Ukraine, and says Moscow may be seeking to expand its territorial reach into new areas.

U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove said Moscow may be eyeing a small Russian-speaking separatist region on Ukraine's southwestern border known as Transdniester.

Breedlove says the NATO command finds the potential for a Russian move into the Transdniester region, which declared independence from Moldova in the 1990s, "very worrisome."

Moscow insists it is complying with international troop limits near the Ukrainian border. Additionally, Russia's defense chief sought last week to assure U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel that Russian troops massed near Ukraine have no intention of crossing the border.

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