Thousands of Ukrainian troops are preparing to withdraw from Crimea, as Western leaders begin sanctions against Russia for attempting to annex the region. "We are working out a plan of action so that we can transfer not just servicemen, but first of all, members of their family who are in Crimea, quickly and effectively to mainland Ukraine," Secretary of Ukraine's National Security and Defence Council Andriy Parubiy said according to the Daily Mail. The withdraw could consist of 25,000 troops and may leave many more stranded on the peninsula. Many of these troops are rumored to have already defected to Russian forces.
The Associated Press reported that Wednesday, only a day after Russia signed a treaty to move forward with annexation, that Crimean self defense force stormed the gate of the Sevastopol naval base. Russia then quickly arrived with its Black Sea Fleet.
Later that day, Russian troops seized another base in Bakhchisaray. Ukrainian troops offered no resistance. As Ukrainian navy Major Eduard Kusnarenko told Reuters: "Russian troops came and asked us to leave the base, which we did,"
In the West, German Chancelor Angela Merkel said the European Union was prepared to further raise sanctions against the Ukraine. According to the Associated Press, she said: "The European Council will make it clear today and tomorrow that with a further deterioration of the situation we are always prepared to take level 3 measures, and those will without a doubt include economic sanctions."
On Tuesday, Russia issued an executive order admitting the "Republic of Crimea" into the Russian Federation.
— Vladimir Putin (@PutinRF_Eng) March 19, 2014
The President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, tweeted in response to Russia's moves to annexation:
— José Manuel Barroso (@BarrosoEU) March 18, 2014
In a statement, the European Commission said: "The sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of Ukraine must be respected. The European Union does neither recognise the illegal and illegitimate referendum in Crimea nor its outcome. The European Union does not and will not recognise the annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol to the Russian Federation."
Image via RT, Youtube