Ukraine defense chief resigns; troops leave Crimea
by Peter Leonard, Associated Press
March 25, 2014 11:15 AM | 674 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Ukrainian marines prepare to leave their base in Feodosia, Crimea, Tuesday, March 25, 2014. Lawmakers in Ukraine accepted the resignation of the defense minister Tuesday as thousands of troops began withdrawing from the Crimean Peninsula, now controlled by Russia.(AP Photo/Valeriy Kulyk)
Ukrainian marines prepare to leave their base in Feodosia, Crimea, Tuesday, March 25, 2014. Lawmakers in Ukraine accepted the resignation of the defense minister Tuesday as thousands of troops began withdrawing from the Crimean Peninsula, now controlled by Russia.(AP Photo/Valeriy Kulyk)
slideshow
Ukrainian marines prepare to leave their base in Feodosia, Crimea, Tuesday, March 25, 2014. In Crimea, Ukrainian soldiers piled onto buses and began their journey to Ukrainian territory on Tuesday, as former comrades saluted them from outside a base overrun by Russian forces. (AP Photo/Valeriy Kulyk)
Ukrainian marines prepare to leave their base in Feodosia, Crimea, Tuesday, March 25, 2014. In Crimea, Ukrainian soldiers piled onto buses and began their journey to Ukrainian territory on Tuesday, as former comrades saluted them from outside a base overrun by Russian forces. (AP Photo/Valeriy Kulyk)
slideshow
A Ukrainian marine reacts as his comrades leave the base in Feodosia, Crimea, Tuesday, March 25, 2014. In Crimea, Ukrainian soldiers piled onto buses and began their journey to Ukrainian territory on Tuesday, as former comrades saluted them from outside a base overrun by Russian forces. (AP Photo/Valeriy Kulyk)
A Ukrainian marine reacts as his comrades leave the base in Feodosia, Crimea, Tuesday, March 25, 2014. In Crimea, Ukrainian soldiers piled onto buses and began their journey to Ukrainian territory on Tuesday, as former comrades saluted them from outside a base overrun by Russian forces. (AP Photo/Valeriy Kulyk)
slideshow

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Lawmakers in Ukraine accepted the resignation of the defense minister Tuesday as thousands of troops began withdrawing from the Crimean Peninsula, now controlled by Russia.

In an address to parliament, Igor Tenyukh said he rejected criticism that he had failed to issue clear instructions to troops, but that he reserved the right to step down. Lawmakers initially refused his resignation, but later accepted it. A majority then voted to appoint Col. Gen. Mikhail Kovalyov as his replacement.

Authorities in Ukraine have come under criticism for their often-hesitant reaction to Russia's annexation of Crimea, which was formalized following a hastily organized referendum this month.

In Crimea, Ukrainian soldiers piled onto buses and began their journey to Ukrainian territory on Tuesday, as a former comrade saluted them from outside a base overrun by Russian forces.

Tenyukh said he had received requests to leave Crimea from about 6,500 soldiers and family members— meaning about two-thirds of the 18,800 military personnel and relatives stationed there were so far taking their chances in the peninsula newly absorbed by Russia.

"4,300 servicemen and 2,200 family members wish to continue serving in Ukraine's armed forces and will be evacuated from the autonomous republic of Crimea," Tenyukh said.

In an apparent effort to consolidate control from Kiev, Ukrainian police forces trying to detain a prominent member of a radical nationalist movement key in recent anti-government demonstrations killed the man after he opened fire, the Interior Ministry said.

Right Sector's Oleksandr Muzychko, better known by his nom de guerre Sashko Bily, had become a recurring figure in Russian attempts to portray Ukraine's interim government as dominated by radical nationalists. Moscow has cited the purported influence of groups like Right Sector to justify the absorption of Crimea.

Many in Ukraine downplay Right Sector's importance. Police say Muzychko was sought for organized crime links, hooliganism and for threatening public officials.

Ukraine's new government has struggled to exert authority since last month's overthrow of Russian-supported President Viktor Yanukovych.

Officials in Moscow, meanwhile, are warning Kiev that the country's new government may have to pay more for Russian gas, which is the main part of Ukraine's energy mix.

President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday that the gas discount was linked to the lease deal for the Russian Black Sea fleet's presence in Crimea. Now that Crimea is part of Russia and Moscow does not have to pay for the lease, Russia sees "no reason for the discount," Peskov said, quoted by Russian news agencies.

But he added that it is up to gas company Gazprom to set the price for Ukraine.

NATO member Norway suspended joint activities with Russia's military, adding to Western efforts to isolate Moscow over the incursion into Crimea. But Russia has so far shrugged off sanctions, including its effective exclusion from what had been a two-decade-old coalition known as the Group of Eight.

___

Adam Pemble in Feodosia, Crimea, Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow and Karl Ritter in Stockholm contributed to this report.



Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



Comments
(0)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
No Comments Yet
*We welcome your comments on the stories and issues of the day and seek to provide a forum for the community to voice opinions. All comments are subject to moderator approval before being made visible on the website but are not edited. The use of profanity, obscene and vulgar language, hate speech, and racial slurs is strictly prohibited. Advertisements, promotions, and spam will also be rejected. Please read our terms of service for full guides