Ukrainian Troops' Departure From Crimea Isn't A Simple Matter
Ukraine's plans to withdraw its troops from Crimea, which as we reported were announced Wednesday, have apparently been complicated by the issue of whether they will be allowed to take their weapons and other equipment with them.
NPR's Gregory Warner reports from the Crimean capital of Simferopol that the 25,000 or so Ukrainian troops in the region had not been given orders to leave by their commanders as of midafternoon local time on Thursday. Ukrainian authorities want their troops to bring their weapons, vehicles and other equipment with them. But the Crimean local defense forces and Russian commanders on the ground are reportedly raising objections.
Meanwhile, there's word from The Moscow Times that "a Ukrainian officer, detained after pro-Russian forces stormed a naval base in Crimea, was released Thursday after Russia asked the regional authorities to let him go."
Ukraine, as Bloomberg News reports, "plans to reinforce its eastern border with Russia and withdraw troops from Crimea, ceding control of the Black Sea peninsula as tensions remained high over Russian moves to annex the breakaway region."
Update at 6:30 p.m. ET. Ukrainian Ships Seized
Warner reports that Russia on Thursday seized three Ukrainian warships in Sevastopol, "reportedly using stun grenades in one incident."
Russian forces and pro-Russian Crimean militias also took over military bases, a hospital and a candy store, he says, "all mostly without violence," he says.
"But, as the number of armed groups in Crimea multiply, including paramilitary self-defense forces answerable to no clear authority, Crimeans entered a legal grey zone. [They are] no longer protected by Ukranian law, with limited functioning police or courts," he says.
Update at 9 a.m. ET. Some Movement?
Reuters reports that "Ukrainian border guards in Crimea, which is under the control of Russia's military, have started redeploying to regions on the mainland, a senior official said on Thursday."
"We have started the gradual redeployment of our servicemen to the territory of Kherson and Mikolayiv regions," Pavlo Shysholin, deputy head of the state border guard service, told a news conference. Reuters adds that "Shysholin also said about 1,000 civilians had so far left the peninsula."
As the crisis in Ukraine has developed over recent weeks, we've tracked developments. Here's a recap:
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