Ukraine: Crimea Bases Under Russian Control

Ukraine: Crimea Bases Under Russian Control

Russia has announced all military bases in Crimea are under its control and Ukrainian troops have left the region.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu added the country's president, Vladimir Putin, would hand over the military vessels and airplanes of Ukrainian forces that have changed sides and joined Moscow.

The region voted overwhelmingly to join Russia in a hastily-arranged referendum earlier this month.

Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama has urged Russia to pull its forces back from Ukraine's border amid the biggest crisis in relations between the West and Russia since the end of the Cold War.

"You've seen a range of troops massing along that border under the guise of military exercises. But these are not what Russia would normally be doing," he told US television network CBS.

"You would have thought that after a couple of decades that there'd be an awareness on the part of any Russian leader that the path forward is not to revert back to the kinds of practices that you know, were so prevalent during the Cold War."

A senior Russian security official has been quoted as telling Mr Putin Moscow faces growing threats from the US and its allies.

"There has been a sharp increase in external threats to the state. The lawful desire of the peoples of Crimea and eastern Ukrainian regions is causing hysteria in the United States and its allies," Alexander Malevany, was quoted as saying.

The deputy head of the Federal Security Service added Russia was taking "offensive counter-intelligence and intelligence measures" to blunt Western efforts to "weaken Russian influence in a region that is of vital importance".

Russia was accused of invading Crimea in the aftermath of the removal of President Viktor Yanukovych, but Mr Putin called the soldiers who took over Ukrainian bases there "self-defence forces".

However, on Friday the Russian leader said the action in Crimea had showed the new capacities of the Russian army.

"The recent events in Crimea were a serious test," he said at a televised military ceremony.

"They demonstrated the new capacities of our armed forces in terms of quality and the high moral spirit of the personnel."

It is the first time Mr Putin has confirmed the direct involvement of the Russian army in the seizure.

He went on to thank the "commanders and servicemen of the Black Sea Fleet and other units deployed in Crimea for their restraint and personal courage".

On Friday, Mr Yanukovych said every region of Ukraine should hold a vote to decide whether to break away like Crimea.

He said he would not recognise a presidential election planned for May 25 and called instead for nationwide referendums.

"As president who is with you in thought and soul, I ask every single sensible citizen of Ukraine not to let yourselves be used by the imposters.

"Demand a referendum on determining the status of every region in Ukraine," he added in a statement quoted by Russia's Itar-Tass news agency.

Mr Yanukovych faced months of mass protests over his decision to spurn a European Union trade deal in favour of closer ties with Moscow.

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