Ukraine will draft a plan to remove its military and civilians from Crimea, essentially ceding control of the peninsula to the Russian forces who have already overwhelmed them. Ukraine's National Security and Defence Council chief Andriy Parubiy announced the withdrawal plan Wednesday in the wake of the escalating conflict between Ukraine and Russia over the disputed territory.
"We are developing a plan that would enable us not only to withdraw servicemen, but also members of their families in Crimea, so that they could be quickly and efficiently moved to mainland Ukraine," Parubiy said during a televised press conference. On Tuesday, tensions seemed ready to boil over after a Ukrainian soldier was shot and killed, presumably by a pro-Russian sniper, prompting anger and some tougher talk from Ukraine's government.
But the tone seemed to change just 24 hours later, sort of. Pro-Moscow forces seized military bases in Sevastopol, Crimea on Wednesday, without firing a shot. Ukrainian officers let the Russian forces take control, with no orders to defend their stations. No shots were fired and there were no reported injuries. Ukrainian soldiers were given an option: stay and join Russia, or leave:
“All my relatives are from Russia, but I serve in the Ukrainian army,” Pavel, a Ukrainian officer who declined to give his last name, told BuzzFeed as he left the compound. “I definitely can’t go over to the Russian side, because that’s treachery. We can’t betray the country we served to the last. That’s not right.”
But Ukraine's acting president Oleksandr Turchynov continued to posture in the face of Russian aggression. Turchynov threatened possible military action against the Russian forces in Crimea unless the country's Navy chief was released. "Unless Admiral (Sergiy) Gayduk and all the other hostages ... are released, the authorities will carry out an adequate response... of a technical and technological nature," Turchynov said in a statement. However, they are also realistic enough to know that a shooting war with Russia is one they can't win, and not worth the further loss of life.
Even some news organizations have come to accept what seems to be inevitable. Saying that "Ukraine no longer controls Crimea, and AP datelines should reflect the facts on the ground," the Associated Press has begun changing its datelines from "SEVASTOPOL, Ukraine" to "SEVASTOPOL, Crimea" and National Geographic is already discussing changing its maps to reflect the Russian annexation.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.