Standing side by side with two Baltic leaders in Vilnius, Lithuania, Biden said the U.S. was “absolutely committed” to defending its allies, adding that President Barack Obama plans to seek concrete commitments from NATO members to ensure the alliance can safeguard its collective security.
“Russia cannot escape the fact that the world is changing and rejecting outright their behavior,” Biden said after meeting in Vilnius with Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite and Latvian President Andris Berzins.
The several hundred Russian-speaking troops who captured the base in Sevastopol met no resistance. Sevastopol is also the home port of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, and tens of thousands of Russian-led troops are now patrolling Crimea.
The seizure of the base came a day after a confrontation between Ukrainian soldiers and pro-Russian militia left two dead.
The Russian-led troops, who arrived on the base after the storming, wore helmets, flak jackets and uniforms with no identifying insignia. By afternoon, they were in full control of the naval headquarters, a set of three-story white concrete buildings with blue trim.
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said no one was injured in the raid, which it said was led by pro-Russian militiamen and Cossacks.
The ministry said Rear Adm. Sergei Haiduk was detained by unknown people after the storming of the fleet headquarters. The Russian state ITAR-Tass news agency reported that he was being questioned by Crimean prosecutors.
Ukraine’s defense minister and deputy prime minister had planned to travel to Crimea yesterday in what they called a bid to avert an escalation in hostilities — but the pro-Russian leader of Crimea warned they would be turned back.
“They are not welcome in Crimea,” Sergei Aksyonov was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency. “They will not be allowed to enter Crimea. They will be sent back.”