KIEV, Ukraine — Russian forces seized military installations across the disputed Crimean Peninsula yesterday, prompting Ukraine’s security chief to announce that his country will hold joint military exercises with the United States and Britain.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was in Lithuania, trying to reassure nations along Russia’s borders who were terrified by the sight of an expansion-minded Moscow.
“We’re in this with you, together,” Biden said.
Ukraine has been powerless to prevent Russian troops from taking control of Crimea, which Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed on Tuesday. A day later, masked Russian-speaking troops moved into Ukraine’s naval headquarters in the Crimean city of Sevastopol, detaining the head of Ukraine’s navy and seizing the facility. They faced no resistance.
Andriy Parubiy, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, said the government was drawing up plans to evacuate its outnumbered troops from Crimea back to the mainland and will seek U.N. support to turn the peninsula into a demilitarized zone.
He also said Ukraine will hold military maneuvers with the countries that signed the 1994 Budapest Memorandum. He didn’t elaborate.
The document was signed by the U.S., Britain and Russia to guarantee Ukraine’s territorial integrity when it surrendered its share of Soviet nuclear arsenals to Russia after the Soviet Union broke up in 1991. Ukraine has accused Russia of breaching the agreement by taking over the Crimean Peninsula.
In addition, Parubiy said Ukraine decided to leave the Moscow-dominated Commonwealth of Independent States, a loose alliance of 11 former Soviet nations. The last nation to leave the group was Georgia, which lost a brief war with neighboring Russia in 2008 and ended up losing two separatist territories.
In a warning to Moscow, Biden declared that the United States will respond to any aggression against its NATO allies, which include neighbors to Russia.