KIEV, March 25, 23:45 /ITAR-TASS/. Ukraine will withdraw its troops from Crimea, Mikhail Koval, whom the Ukrainian parliament today appointed acting defense minister to replace dismissed Igor Tenyukh, confirmed Tuesday.
“The entire set of measures is being held, everything will be all right. But I am not ready to tell you [the details],” Koval said.
Tenyukh, now former acting Ukrainian defense minister, earlier reported that Ukraine reached an agreement with Russia to withdraw Ukrainian military units from the territory of Crimea, a former Ukrainian region that recently became part of Russia. Tenyukh said the withdrawal will be carried out jointly with armaments.
Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov also confirmed that Ukrainian servicemen may freely leave Crimea. “But with weapons or not will be up to the Defense Ministry to decide,” Peskov told journalists.
The Ukrainian Defense Ministry told Itar-Tass that first deputy chief of the Ukrainian armed forces General Staff, Gennady Vorobyov, held phone talks on Tuesday with Deputy Russian Defense Minister Army General Dmitry Bulgakov.
During the talks, Vorobyov and Bulgakov discussed “the procedure for Ukrainian servicemen and their family members to leave Crimea, as well as to withdraw armaments, military hardware and Ukrainian armed forces property”.
“Overall, up to 2,000 of our servicemen will have to be withdrawn from the peninsula,” a Ukrainian Defense Ministry spokesman said.
“The Russian side notified us of its readiness to ensure unhindered withdrawal,” he added.
Earlier, Tenyukh said over 6,500 servicemen and their family members wished to be evacuated from Crimea. Overall, according to his data, there were some 18,800 Ukrainian servicemen in Crimea.
The Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol, a city with a special status on the Crimean Peninsula, where most residents are Russians, held a referendum on March 16, in which an overwhelming majority of their population decided to secede from Ukraine and join Russia.
Crimea subsequently signed a treaty on its accession to the Russian Federation as a constituent member on March 18. Russia’s upper house of parliament ratified it on March 21. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed relevant laws on the same day.
The developments came amid political turmoil in Ukraine, where a coup occurred in February following months of anti-government protests that often turned violent.
In the Soviet Union, Crimea used to be part of Russia until 1954, when Nikita Khrushchev, the first secretary of the USSR’s Communist Party, transferred it to Ukraine's jurisdiction. In 1991, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Crimea became part of newly independent Ukraine.