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Russian forces release Ukrainian navy chief

Updated 10:45 a.m. EDT, March 20 | Russian forces have released navy chief Serhiy Hayuk, who was detained Wednesday amid the Russian takeover of the naval base in Crimean city of Sevastopol, the acting president of Ukraine said Thursday.

Updated 3:45 p.m. EDT, March 19 | Ukraine’s acting president, Oleksander Turchinov, gave a 9 p.m. local time, 3 p.m. EDT, ultimatum Wednesday to release all military and civilian hostages, including Ukrainian navy chief Serhiy Hayduk, being held in the Ukrainian naval headquarters in Sevastopol. The deadline has now passed.

Earlier, Turchynov said in a statement that “unless Admiral [Sergiy] Gayduk and all the other hostages — both military and civilian ones — are released, the authorities will carry out an adequate response … of a technical and technological nature.”

It remains unclear what the “adequate response” would entail.


Original post as follows:
The Ukrainian government said Wednesday that it has drafted plans to pull its troops out of Crimea, as Russian forces continue to take control of its military bases in the peninsula.

“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,” Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council secretary Andriy Parubiy said.

Video by The New York Times

A few hundred unarmed pro-Russian militiamen seized control of Ukraine’s naval headquarters in the Crimean city of Sevastopol on Wednesday and detained the Ukrainian navy chief Serhiy Hayduk, the Associated Press reports.

The Pro-Russian forces overwhelmed the base, replacing the Ukrainian flags with Russian ones, according to the BBC. Ukrainian servicemen filed out of the base, offering no resistance. Sevastopol is also home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.

AFP reports that Russian forces also seized a military base in Novoozerne, a western Crimean town.

On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty to annex Crimea, two days after the region, which is largely ethnically Russian, approved a referendum to separate from Ukraine.

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