March 19, 2014 3:20 pm
Updated: March 19, 2014 3:23 pm

Ukraine making plans to pull troops from Crimea

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ABOVE: Moscow is racing to incorporate the Crimea region into Russia, ignoring the threat of sanctions from Washington. Craig Boswell has the latest.

LATEST UPDATES:

  • Crimean forces take Ukrainian navy HQ
  • Canada among countries imposing sanctions against Russia
  • Nations look West for assurance as Biden vows US will defend NATO allies
  • PM in Crimea says senior Ukrainian officials aren’t welcome
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin insists he has no intention of invading other regions in Ukraine, much less other nations.
  • Putin signs treaty to add Crimea to map of Russia

Ukraine’s government said Wednesday it has begun drawing up plans to pull its troops from Crimea, where Russia is steadily taking formal control as its armed forces seize military installations across the disputed peninsula.

In a warning to Moscow, U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden declared the United States will respond to any aggression against its NATO allies, which include neighbours to Russia.

Crimean forces storm Ukrainian navy HQ


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Crimea’s self-defence forces on Wednesday stormed the Ukrainian navy base in the Black Sea port of Sevastopol a day after Russia signed a treaty with local authorities to annex the region.

READ MORE: Ukrainian serviceman, fighter reportedly killed in storming of Crimean facility

An Associated Press photographer witnessed several hundred self-defence forces take down the gate and make their way onto the headquarters’ premises. They then raised the Russian flag on the square by the headquarters.

Ukrainian servicemen were standing guard by the main building. Crimean self-defence forces are not armed and seemed to be waiting for the Ukrainian army’s decision whether to let them in.

The commander of the Russian Black Sea fleet was seen arriving at the base for talks.

Nations look West for assurance


ABOVE: US prepared to levy more sanctions on Russia following death of Ukrainian soldier

Russian President Vladimir Putin insists he has no intention of invading other regions in Ukraine, much less other nations. But leaders in Russia’s backyard aren’t so sure, and they’re looking to Vice-President Joe Biden for assurances that the U.S. has a plan to prevent that from happening.

Biden was meeting in this Baltic capital Wednesday with the leaders of Lithuania and Latvia, two small countries that, like Ukraine, border Russia.

A day after promising more sanctions and regional military exercises to send a stern signal to Putin, Biden was making the case that the U.S. stands ready to defend nations like Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia whose NATO membership entitles them to a defensive response from the U.S. and others.

“Have no doubt: The United States will honour its commitment. We always do,” Biden said Tuesday in Warsaw, Poland, which shares a border with both Russia and Ukraine.

Ukraine’s defence minister denied entry to Crimea

Ukraine’s defence minister and deputy prime minister had planned to travel to Crimea on Wednesday in a bid to avert an escalation in hostilities.

The prime minister in Crimea warned after the announcement of their departure that they would be turned back, however.

“They are not welcome in Crimea,” Sergei Aksyonov was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency. “They will not be allowed to enter Crimea. They will be sent back.”

Canada, U.S., EU impose sanctions on Russia


ABOVE: The EU has offered a 1.4 billion dollar (US) aid package for the Ukraine

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird announced measures against Russia as he denounced what he called Moscow’s “illegal annexation” of Crimea from Ukraine.

Baird says Canada will not recognize the treaty signed by President Vladimir Putin to make it official.

He’s announced 17 Ukrainian and Russian officials have been added to a list of those who’ve had assets frozen and facing travel bans.

The United States and the European Union also imposed sanctions on Russia Monday, targeting Russian and Crimean officials with visa bans and asset freezes.

READ MORE: Crimea crisis: Does Putin care about sanctions against Russia?

Putin signs treaty to add Crimea to map of Russia

Putin on Tuesday signed a treaty to incorporate Crimea into its territory following a referendum in which residents of Ukraine’s region overwhelmingly backed the move.

READ MORE: Ukraine crisis: Putin declares Crimea ‘sovereign and independent’

Jubilant crowds in Moscow and other cities across Russia hailed the annexation while Ukraine’s new government called the Russian president a threat to the “civilized world and international security,” and the U.S. and Europe threatened tougher sanctions against Moscow.

© 2014 The Canadian Press

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