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    Ukraine to Evacuate Service Members in Crimea

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

    Ukraine said Monday it is pulling its troops stationed in Crimea, following the region's annexation by Russia. Ukraine's acting president, Oleksandr Turchynov, said the defense ministry had been instructed to redeploy Ukrainian forces from the Black Sea peninsula.

    Earlier Monday, Russian forces overtook 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.



    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 of 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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    Lisa Schlein
    May 31, 2016 1:56 PM
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