Ukraine Prepares To Concede Crimea, Is Drafting A Plan To Remove Ukrainian Military From Region
Ukrainian officials are drafting a plan to remove military troops and civilians from Crimea, hours after Russian forces seized Crimean naval headquarters in Sevastopol — in effect, standing aside for Russia's takeover of the region. Andriy Porubiy, Ukraine's secretary of the national defense and security council, urged the United Nations to name Crimea a "demilitarized zone" as Ukraine looks to relocate its troops and their families away from the unstable region.
The announcement comes a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin moved to annex the Black Sea peninsula, and a Ukrainian soldier was shot and killed by a sniper in in Simferopol.
"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," Porubiy said.
Seizure of the naval headquarters Wednesday was met with little resistance. Tens of thousands of unidentified Russian forces infiltrated the area, according to reports, even as Crimean Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov said: "They are not welcome in Crimea."
Acting Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov has given a three-hour deadline (by 9 p.m. local time) to Crimea's leaders to release hostages, including Ukrainian navy commander Sergiy Gayduk. Turchynov warned that if Crimea does not comply, its utilities will be shut off.
"Kiev should have given the order to use weapons at the beginning, because then we could fight back, but they were afraid to give this command because they were afraid to spill blood," Ukrainian Lt. Col. Aleksandr Lusyan said. "Now we are outnumbered and we cannot fight back."
As Russian forces stand their ground, Ukrainian officials will most likely be forced to face the hard truth that the region is all but part of Russia now. Some Russian passports have already been handed out to people in Crimea, and Ukraine's Deputy Premier Vitaly Yarema and Acting Defense Minister Ihor Tenuyh were barred from landing in Crimea.
Even the head of Ukraine's state TV station was reportedly "roughed up" and forced to resign by members of a far-right political party, CNN reports.
Connor Simpson at The Wire reports that global media organizations are already changing geographical locations in response to the Crimea situation:
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.