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Ukraine Forces Holding Out as Russia Moves on Crimean Bases

Ukraine Forces Holding Out as Russia Moves on Crimean Basesi
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Daniel Schearf
March 22, 2014 1:31 AM
Russian forces have been seizing Ukrainian military bases and warships in Crimea as Moscow finalizes its annexation of the peninsula. While Ukraine prepares to remove its forces, though, some Ukrainian military holdouts are refusing to leave. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Sevastopol, Crimea.

Ukraine Forces Holding Out as Russia Moves on Crimean Bases

Daniel Schearf
— Russian forces have been seizing Ukrainian military bases and warships in Crimea as Moscow finalizes its annexation of the Black Sea peninsula. While Ukraine prepares to move its forces out of Crimea, however, some Ukrainian military holdouts are not bowing to pressure and are refusing to leave.

The Slavutich is the last remaining navy ship under the Ukrainian flag in the bay of Sevastopol.

Russian ships are blocking it, as the Russian military quickly takes over Crimea.

Local fishermen, just meters from the standoff, do not mind if the Ukranian navy stays or leaves, said fishermen Igor. "Russia used to pay for Sevastopol, for their ships anchored here. Now, let them [Ukrainian navy] pay."

A short drive away at Belbek Airforce base, pro-Russia forces are pressuring Ukraine's remaining military to pack up and leave.

Colonel Yuliy Manchur, commander of the base, said, "Currently on the airfield there are 10 to 12 armored personnel carriers trained on us. They are staying and waiting for an order. The probability of storming is very high. So we are staying here and waiting."

Northwest of Crimea's capital Simferopol, several more Ukrainian ships refuse to surrender, even though Russian troops now control Donuzlav naval base.

Many servicemen are tired of Russian pressure and feel betrayed by the silence from their commanders and Kyiv's interim government. They include Sergei.

"We were offered to make a choice until 1200 [1000GMT] whether we stay in Ukraine, loyal to Ukraine's oath, or whether we switch to the Russian side. As for me, I have made a decision to quit the naval forces for good and not to serve anyone," he said.

Sevastopol was for decades a shared Navy headquarters. Despite Ukraine's leaders' insisting they will keep Crimea, Russia has made it clear it has no intention of letting this catch get away.

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