Russians Overrun One of Ukraine's Last Crimea Bases

NATO warns of troop buildup at border

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 24, 2014 5:54 AM CDT

(Newser) – Ukraine has ordered all of its troops to evacuate from Crimea starting at 3pm today, after Russia seized one of its last remaining military installations in the peninsula. Russian forces seized the marine base after attacking from two directions early this morning using armored personnel carriers and stun grenades, a Ukrainian official tells the BBC, in the third such attack in 48 hours. Ukrainian officers were taken away for questioning with their hands tied, officials tells Reuters. In other developments:

  • Russia moved on the base just before President Obama arrived in the Netherlands for urgent talks with allies, reports Voice of America. He is in the country for a nuclear security summit, but is expected to focus on the Ukraine crisis and has called a meeting of G7 leaders to discuss tougher sanctions on Russia.

  • Acting president Oleksander Turchinov said he was ordering the evacuation because Russia had threatened the lives and health of Ukrainian service staff and their families. "Despite the huge losses, Ukrainian forces in Crimea have fulfilled their duty," buying time for Ukrainian forces to regroup he said, in what Reuters characterizes as an attempt to put a "brave face" on troops' inability to defend their bases.
  • Moscow, meanwhile, is stepping up economic pressure on Kiev's government, the New York Times finds. The border has been closed to most trucks, a Ukrainian factory in Russia has been shut down, and the price of natural gas has been raised—again. Russia gave Ukraine a discount on gas to pay rent for the Crimean base where its Black Sea fleet is station, a discount Moscow says is no longer warranted because Crimea is now Russian territory.
  • As Russia tightened its grip on Crimea, NATO's top commander warned of a huge buildup of Russian forces on Ukraine's border, CNN reports. Gen. Philip Breedlove warned that the "very, very sizable and very, very ready" Russian force could easily storm right across Ukraine to Moldova's separatist, pro-Russia Trans-Dniester region. "There is absolutely sufficient force postured on the eastern border of Ukraine to run to Trans-Dniester if the decision was made to do that, and that is very worrisome," the general said.

A Ukrainian marine walks inside the Ukrainian marine base in the city of Feodosia, Crimea yesterday. The base has now been overrun by Russian forces.
A Ukrainian marine walks inside the Ukrainian marine base in the city of Feodosia, Crimea yesterday. The base has now been overrun by Russian forces.   (AP Photo/ Pavel Golovkin)
Pro-Russian soldiers in unmarked uniforms look on from behind as Ukrainian  officers speak to the media.
Pro-Russian soldiers in unmarked uniforms look on from behind as Ukrainian officers speak to the media.   (AP Photo/ Pavel Golovkin)
Activists stand guard during a pro Russian rally at a central square in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine yesterday.
Activists stand guard during a pro Russian rally at a central square in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine yesterday.   (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
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