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After a kiss, Ukrainian troops leave Crimea by bus



FEODOSIA, Crimea (AP) - Giving last-minute kisses to wives and girlfriends, Ukrainian marines in Crimea piled into buses Tuesday to head back to the mainland. Former comrades saluted them from outside a base that has been overrun by Russian forces.

It was a low-key exit from the eastern port of Feodosia, with fewer than a dozen friends or relatives on hand to bid the marines farewell. A troop transporter bearing black Russian military plates trailed the bus as it pulled away.

Their departure came as Ukraine's defense minister stepped down Tuesday after harsh criticism for authorities' often-hesitant reaction to Russia's annexation of Crimea, which was formalized following a hastily organized referendum this month. And while Ukraine struggled to deal with its humbling by Russia, it also faced the menace of seething Ukrainian nationalists angered by the police killing of a leading radical.

Troops were given the stark choice of staying in Crimea and switching to work for Russia or leaving the peninsula to keep their jobs with Ukraine.

So far, 131 Ukrainian marines have left Crimea, the defense ministry said. They are going to be stationed temporarily at a military barracks in the southern town of Genichesk but their final destination is still unclear.

One serviceman, 30-year old Senior Lt. Anatoly Mozgovoy, told The Associated Press that he left his wife and seven-month-old daughter behind to stay with his mother-in-law in Crimea.

"The Russians threatened, intimidated, bullied and tried to get us to switch sides to Russia. It has been very difficult to resist this enormous pressure but I have made a choice that I can live with," Mozgovoy said by phone from Genichesk. "We were greeted as heroes in Ukraine. I was able to breathe freely for the first time in months."

When he finds out where he is being permanently stationed, Mozgovoy plans to reunite the family.

At a summit on nuclear security in The Hague, Netherlands, President Barack Obama said Russian troops would not be dislodged by force from Crimea. He reminded the audience that one of the achievements of his first nuclear summit in 2010 "was Ukraine's decision to remove all of its highly enriched uranium from its nuclear fuel sites."

"Had that not happened, those dangerous nuclear materials would still be there now. And the difficult situation we're dealing with in Ukraine today would involve yet another level of concern," Obama said.

In an address to parliament in Kiev, Defense Minister Igor Tenyukh denied that he had failed to issue clear instructions to his troops but reserved the right to resign. The order to withdraw from Crimea was issued Monday, a week after many bases had already been stormed and seized by pro-Russian forces.

Lawmakers initially refused Tenyukh's resignation but later accepted it and replaced him with Col. Gen. Mykhailo Koval.

About 4,300 Ukrainian servicemen and 2,200 of their relatives have asked to leave Crimea, Tenyukh said Tuesday. That means about two-thirds of the 18,800 military personnel and relatives that he said were stationed on the Black Sea peninsula were taking their chances in Crimea.

Tenyukh said accommodations for incoming soldiers were being prepared at boarding houses and other facilities in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital. Oleksandr Rozmaznin, deputy chief of operations for Ukraine's armed forces, said navy troops were being redeployed in port cities along Ukraine's southern mainland - in Odessa, Mykolaiv and Kherson.

The Defense Ministry, meanwhile, said 11 of its servicemen have been abducted by Russian troops and remain unaccounted for, including Col. Yuliy Mamchur, a commander who earned wide plaudits in Ukraine for defying besieging pro-Russian forces until his base was stormed over the weekend.

Ukraine's new government is struggling to consolidate control amid ominous signals of discontent from Right Sector, a radical nationalist movement that played a key role in the anti-government demonstrations which prompted President Viktor Yanukovych to flee to Russia in February.

One radical, Oleksandr Muzychko, was shot dead overnight as he was being detained by police, the Interior Ministry said Tuesday.

Moscow has cited the alleged influence of nationalist groups like Right Sector to justify its hasty annexation of Crimea, which has a large Russian majority.

Russian state television, which is widely viewed by Ukraine's Russian-speaking population in the east, has regularly aired lurid reports on Muzychko's antics as part of what media analysts say is a sustained effort to undermine the government in Kiev.

But many in Ukraine downplay the group's importance and it has no posts in the new government. Police say Muzychko was being sought for organized crime links, hooliganism and threatening public officials.

Right Sector leader Dmytro Yarosh lashed out at his killing.

"We cannot silently watch as the Interior Ministry carries out active anti-revolutionary activities," Yarosh said.

His group demanded the immediate resignation of Interior Minister Arsen Avakov and the arrest of the head of the Sokol special forces.

Amid the country's political turmoil, Ukraine's economy is in a dire state and representatives from the International Monetary Fund have been holding talks with the new government for weeks on the terms of a potential bailout.

Officials in Moscow, meanwhile, warned Kiev that the country's new government will have to pay more for Russian gas. President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said a gas discount that Russia had previously given Ukraine was linked to Russian Black Sea fleet's lease in Crimea and no longer valid.

But he added the Russian natural gas giant Gazprom would have to set the new price.

In November, Russia agreed to help prop up Yanukovych's teetering government by selling Ukraine gas at $268.5 per thousand cubic meters, but that discounted price has been scrapped. Ukraine's Energy Minister Yury Prodan said Tuesday that Kiev would pay Gazprom no more than $387 per thousand cubic meters for gas.

The U.S. and the EU have both hit Russia with sanctions for annexing Crimea, and NATO member Norway on Tuesday suspended joint activities with Russia's military. But Russia has so far shrugged off the sanctions, including being tossed out of the elite Group of Eight developed nations.

Officials say the other G-8 nations with meet, without Russia, in Brussels in June.

___

Leonard and Yuras Karmanau reported from Kiev. Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow and Karl Ritter in Stockholm contributed to this report.

Join the discussion

1000|Char. 1000  Char.
fastmoving2 March 25 2014 at 9:28 PM

To stay and fight was totally useless and basically suicide. They were completely caught off guard and overwhelmed by Russian troops. It's better to retreat and live to fight another day. The only thing I thought the Ukraine navy should have did was to scuttle the three ships that the Russians had blocked inside their port. They should have also sunk the submarine before it ended up in Russian hands.

Flag Reply +12 rate up
lizythomas March 26 2014 at 8:46 AM

Yes, because sanctions sure stopped the Serbs from continuing to attack Sarajevo. Definitely.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
dubricus March 26 2014 at 9:59 AM

Here's what's happening all over the world. Nations were created with arbitrary lines drawn on a map. As long as those cobbled together countries had a totalitarian government or military dictator, they held together in a seemingly peaceful way... different ethnic groups & religions marrying each other because ethnicity & religions were suppressed. As long as the dictator could make the people more afraid of him, than they hated each other, all was well. Then democracy came. Democracy means majority rule to most. Therefore, in areas where one ethnicity was dominant, others felt oppressed. The old frictions & hatreds returned. Crimea has been Russian for over 300 years. John Paul Jones was hired by Catherine the Great to command her Black Sea fleet. The Russians fought the Ottoman Empire & the UK for control of Crimea. Russia's other age-old issue has been a desire for buffer states. Mentality & fears do not change overnight. To Russia, NATO & the EU was creeping into the Russian buffer states. Russia has been invaded from the West as recently as WW2. It's hard to forget Stalingrad. They let Estonia, Latvia, & Lithuania go their own way. Poland, an ancient enemy of Russia, also went its own way. The EU encroachment into Ukraine & the western ethnic Ukrainians, who are Catholic & consider themselves non-Russian wanted to join the West. Problem for Russia. The lands between the Dnieper River & the Don River are the issue. Multiple ethnic groups have fought over those lands for thousands of years.... Those tribes (Russians, Cossacks, Ukrainians, Ruthenians, Tatars) do not like each other. When they were all Soviet & part of the USSR that was OK... atheism ruled, the "state" ruled. When that fell apart.... the hatreds revived. In that region, Russians are the majority. They want to be part of Russia. The Ukrainians & Tatars there don't want to be Russian. There you have the problem of Democracy.... Tribalism trumps democracy almost every time.

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3 replies
barryaclarke March 26 2014 at 2:58 AM

You have to really feel sorry for these young men because you know many will never return home to see their families again. Just look at this mans face and it tells a story many will not want to forget...............

Flag Reply +10 rate up
2 replies
rothhammer1 barryaclarke March 26 2014 at 3:11 AM

East Germany again.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
molly2peaches barryaclarke March 26 2014 at 4:16 AM

Up to a point. The guy is a soldier. Is he lying shot apart in a foxhole for Stalin? In a civil war between Ukraine and Russia like they had from 1918 to 1921? Ukraine lost. You put on the uniform, it's time to get serious.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
joethightwad March 26 2014 at 8:12 AM

This underscores yet another issue contributing to the complexity of the ethnic situation not just in Crimea, but eastern Ukraine as well. Ethnic Russians have lived in the area for generations, intermarrying with Ukrainians, producing offspring which also made families with spouses from both nationalities. Expecting them now to pick sides is asking a great deal indeed.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
1 reply
mike.fort joethightwad March 26 2014 at 9:50 AM

Correct, but first everyone needs to understand what lead up to "picking sides".. The EU or European Union or European integration is the process of industrial, political, legal, economic, social and cultural integration of states. This is what's going on in the Ukraine. European integration has primarily come about through the European Union and the Council of Europe. Seems that in the beginning the protester's were peaceful and wanting a European Union where as President Yanukovych in Kiev "who takes sides with Putin" did not take kindly to the demonstrators requests thereby deeming their once peaceful protests - " against the law." - which would be unconstitutional here in the USA. Once the demonstrator's saw their freedom being taken away to demonstrate peacefully, that's when the violence erupted. Apparently Russia "Putin" and Yanukovych want no part of EU because then Russia would soon lose control of another RUssian piece of property in the Ukraine just like they lost to Georgia a few years back. So now Russia "Putin" decides it's time to take the bull by the horns and just invade Crimea/Kiev/Ukraine by show of Military force with RUssian troops, asking people to pick sides, and bullying people into picking and choosing Communism over Freedom and a more people controlled - Democratic society. Russia has no real government, since the collapse of the wall during the Reagan era, the Russian politicians have become corrupt as well as very very rich...."billionaires" !!!! think of Russia as now being run by a MOB, not a real President. Putin controls everything , just as he's doing right now, just like what's going on in Syria as well, same thing with Assad too where the rich and powerful control everything including the MIlitary while all the citizens suffer in poverty. We could take Russia over in a heartbeat. Our USA defense budget is over 600 billion dollars a year and RUssia is only 90 Billion. BUt I still think we should stay out of the confrontation, let Putin have his little Crimea just so long as his need for control and power does not spread to the rest of the Ukraine. We have enough problems of our own here in the USA and should not be policing the world. However if a dictator is going to start killing innocent people and taking other countries by force then we cannot just stand by and let that happen.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
usapaydirt March 26 2014 at 8:05 AM

Recorded history won't be kind to Putin, for breaking his Nations own treaty with a sovereign Nation by invading it. Leaders that are addicted to power have no common sense, and visualize strength as possessions and acreage , however since were all still hurling through space on the same blue ball, the only true strength to be had, is sustained and equal prosperity for all of humanity ......

Flag Reply +4 rate up
rui.luz March 26 2014 at 10:43 AM

just a huge mess.very complicated to resolve,some gain,but the weaks will loose and suffer more.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
Shirleyjean March 26 2014 at 10:49 AM

It's all predicted in a book written over 2000 years ago called the Bible.

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jguss69 March 26 2014 at 9:18 AM

poor fn guys, nothin but defeat without a fight....sux

Flag Reply +2 rate up
dave March 26 2014 at 9:44 AM

Is it the start of the old soviet union? Its only been 25 years since the so called end of communism. As I recall nation annexing was the same activity. I'm glad they cleared up one thing, it looks like it was all about gas from the black sea

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